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Sympathy over Kohl wife's suicide

Hannelore and Helmut Kohl
Hannelore Kohl, pictured in 1996, had supported Helmut throughout his career  

BERLIN, Germany -- Expressions of sympathy are pouring in for the former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl whose wife has committed suicide at the age of 68.

Hannelore Kohl was found dead on Wednesday night at the family's home in the western city of Ludwigshafen after seven years of suffering from a rare and painful allergy to sunlight.

Her husband's office later issued a statement saying she had committed suicide.

She had to "spend the last 15 months without daylight in her house" and could leave and enter her home only in total darkness, the statement said.

As her pain worsened, she was given stronger medication, but medical treatment could not reverse the disease, the statement said.

"Due to the hopelessness of her health situation, she decided to end her life of her own free will.

CNN's Chris Burns: "She had been suffering increasing amounts of pain."
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Hannelore Kohl: Years of pain  

"She conveyed this decision in farewell letters to her husband, her sons and friends."

Doctors in Germany and abroad failed to alleviate the extremely rare ailment, the statement said.

Condolences poured in on Thursday from shocked political friends and foes, including current German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his wife, who wished Kohl and the couple's two sons "courage and strength to live with this terrible loss," the Associated Press reported.

French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin expressed sympathy, saying the French "appreciated her charm, her intelligence and her knowledge of France," AP added.

Former UK Prime Minister John Major also sent condolences from him and his wife Norma.

Mr Major told the Press Association: "Hannelore was a gracious lady and a tremendous support to Helmut Kohl during a time of immense achievement for Germany.

"Norma and I send all our sympathies to Helmut and the family."

Funding scandal

Hannelore Kohl married the future chancellor in 1960 and stood firmly by his side throughout a long political career, including both his time as chancellor from 1982 to 1998, and a slush fund scandal that enveloped him after he was voted out of office.

She had kept herself and the couple's two sons out of the public spotlight as Helmut Kohl rose through the ranks in post-war West Germany's conservative Christian Democratic party, taking over as leader in 1973.

When Kohl, now 71, lost power in 1998 and was engulfed by a party funding scandal the following year, his wife spoke up for him. "We survived World War II. We will also cope with this ... I stand by my man," she said.

Hannelore Kohl led a charity for helping accident victims -- the Hannelore Kohl Foundation -- and a few years ago wrote a cookbook with her husband.

In May, she missed the wedding of her son Peter to his Turkish fiancee in Istanbul, Turkey, due to her illness, but won lavish praise in Turkey for supporting her son's choice of wife.

Hannelore Kohl's allergy was triggered by a penicillin treatment in 1993. She acknowledged it was untreatable, and her condition worsened last year.

She was born March 7, 1933 in Berlin, the daughter of an engineer from Rhineland-Palatinate. She grew up in the eastern city of Leipzig until the end of World War II in 1945, when her family moved west.

She is survived by her husband and sons.

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