She was born in Berlin as Hannelore Renner. In the years of her husbands chancellorship, she founded the Hannelore Kohl Stiftung and the Kuratorium ZNS.
On July 5, 2001, she was found dead in her Ludwigshafen home. Hannelore Kohl had committed suicide after years of suffering from a very rare and painful photo allergy. Induced by an earlier penicillin treatment, the illness had forced her to practically avoid all sunlight for years.