Former German chancellor Helmut Kohl, a highly important and influential figure of contemporary European history who was celebrated as the father of German reunification and an architect of European integration, died Friday at the age of 87.

Germany’s longest serving post-war leader died in his house in Ludwigshafen.

An imposing figure who formed a close relationship with French President Francois Mitterrand in pushing for closer European integration, Kohl had been frail and wheelchair-bound since suffering a bad fall in 2008.

At home, he is celebrated above all as the father of German reunification, which he achieved after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall despite resistance from partners such as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

He won voters in communist East Germany by promising them "flourishing landscapes".

Shortly after leaving office, Kohl's reputation was tarnished by a financing scandal in his centre-right party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), now led by Chancellor Angela Merkel. Kohl mentored Merkel early in her career, appointing her to her first ministerial post.

Until his death, Kohl refused to identify the donors, saying he had given them his word.