Honorary Doctorate Awarded to Hannelore Kohl

photo: University Archive Greifswald
photo: University Archive Greifswald

Dean’s Office of University Medicine Greifswald
Fleischmannstraße 8, 17489 Greifswald
Tel.: +49 3834 86 5001

On 5 May 1995, the University of Greifswald’s Faculty of Medicine (University Medicine Greifswald) awarded an honorary doctorate to Hannelore Kohl, founder and chairwoman of the "ZNS - Hannelore Kohl Foundation for Injured Persons with Damage to the Central Nervous System". The award recognised her charitable work and her commitment to accident victims with traumatic brain injuries. 

For sixteen years, she was the wife at the side of the German Chancellor, and Hannelore Kohl liked to remain in the large shadow cast by her husband. She presented herself as the personified "woman behind the powerful man", at least to the public. When the petite blonde appeared at Helmut Kohl's side, she remained silent, be it during state visits, or during the election campaign for the CDU. But wherever the overpowering Chancellor was absent, she said of herself: "I stepped out of my husband's shadow." What she meant by this was not a small revolution, but her tireless commitment to people with traumatic brain injury. In 1983, she founded the ZNS Board of Trustees for those affected, with which she raised millions. Hannelore Kohl was unrivalled in this field, she knew her subject like few others and fought non-stop. She was involved in rehabilitation projects in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern on numerous occasions. The University of Greifswald’s Neurological Centre was supported with 1.5 million German marks, and Hannelore Kohl repeatedly handed over donations for institutions in the state. 



Johanna Klara Eleonore Kohl, born on 7 March 1933 in Berlin; died on 5 July 2001 in Luwigshafen am Rhein.

She spent 53 of her 68 years with Helmut Kohl. Having been born in Berlin, she grew up in Leipzig and became a refugee as a result of the war and met Kohl, aged 15, in Ludwigshafen. The dance lesson romance blossomed into marriage 12 years later. Her nickname "Hannelore" is a composition of "Johanna" and "Eleonore".

When Helmut Kohl's light faded at the end of 1998, she became more and more recluse. Her allergy to light, which she contracted from penicillin in 1993, worsened and confined her to her home. It must have been painful for Hannelore Kohl that she was not not even able to attend the wedding of her son Peter.

A year before her suicide, a journalist from Westdeutscher Rundfunk accused her of money laundering and embezzlement in her work for the ZNS and the foundation named after her. This was perceived by her as preparation for character assassination and an attempt to destroy her work in public life. Although the accusations were disproven, she faced considerable psychological and existential stress.