Former German Chancellor handled the RAF Affair and the NATO Double-Pact during his regime (1974-1982) dead at 96.
HAMBURG- Helmut Schmidt, whose political career lasted for over 60 years both in and outside government and left a positive image for Germany in terms of international and domestic policies has died. Schmidt passed away this afternoon at a hospital in Hamburg after complications from a surgery in September to remove a blood clot. He was 96 years old. Schmidt was a member of the German Social Democratic Party from 1946 until 1982, which included his roles as Minister of Defense (1969-1972), as well as Minister of Economics and later Finance (1972-1974), all under Chancellor Willi Brandt. When he resign amid an espionage scandal in 1974, Schmidt took power as German Chancellor and ruled the country with a coalition featuring his party and the Free Liberals. Schmidt became the only Chancellor to lose his office through a Vote of No Confidence on 1 October, 1982, thus ushering in the era of Helmut Kohl of the Christian Democratic Party. The reason was the FDP’s alliance with the CDU, which made Schmidt a lame duck. Kohl still holds the record of being the longest reigning Chancellor, ruling for 16 years until 1998. During his time in power, Schmidt championed the strengthening and expansion of politics on the European level, including the introduction of a European currency (which was eventually introduced in 1999 and replaced the German Mark in 2002), as well as fostered domestic spending to help the unemployed, expand health insurance, and pass health and safety laws. He put an end to the reign of terror caused by the group Red Army Faction, and his policies involving the Cold War, led to the NATO Double-Track Policy, where mid-range missiles were stationed in West Germany, causing protests in many cities. Schmidt was loved and hated by many within and outside Germany because of his policies and his comments on certain events, especially on the international front. However, after he stepped down in 1982, Schmidt became an avid writer and editor, having been co-publisher of the German newspaper Die Zeit and authored several books, mainly focusing on politics and his memoirs about his time in Bonn and Hamburg. However, there are a few more facts that we don’t know about Schmidt. And therefore, we have the:
- Upon his death, Helmut Schmidt became the oldest living former chancellor, having outlived Konrad Adenauer by five years. Adenauer died in 1967 at the age of 91. He has also outlived the oldest former US Presidents, Gerald Ford (1972-76) and Ronald Reagan (1981-88), both of whom lived to be 93 years old. They died in 2006 and 2004, respectively.
- During the Great Flood of 1962, which hammered Hamburg and the state of Schleswig-Holstein, Schmidt, who was Hamburg’s senator, initiated moves by taking charge of the Federal Police and the Germany Army and directed them to the flooded areas, rescuing people stranded on top of houses and providing aid where needed. This overstepped boundaries and led to a change in the German Constitution which forbade the use of federal forces unless deemed a necessity. The flooding and natural disasters were added as a necessity in 1968.
- Schmidt was an avid pianist, having recorded music for several composers from the 1980s on.
- Schmidt was an avid smoker, having smoked heavily, both privately as well as in public and especially on TV shows. This was his signature for his character which was carried all the way to the end, despite controversies involving him violating smoking bans.
- Schmidt was the automatic go-to guy to talk to when asked about several political themes, both on the German as well as the international fronts. This included his views on the environment, whose opposition to shutting down nuclear power plants and his comment on global warming being hysterically overheated stirred a lot of controversies, but conceded that a population explosion is the biggest threat to mankind because of the potential exhaustion of resources. He was on many talk shows, having been interviewed in German and English.
- He was the focus of a Loriot caricature in the 1970s, when he was at his height of popularity amid several scandals and incidents affecting Germany.
- Schmidt’s interest in politics came during his experience serving the Army during the Third Reich and witnessing a trial that was considered biased and brutal, as the Nazis ordered the execution of conspirators responsible for trying to assassinate Adolf Hitler, including Claus von Stauffenberg, whose streets in many cities were later named in his honor.
Helmut Schmidt, despite the controversies and the opposition from others, was considered the elder statesman with open arms. Whenever he was asked about certain political current events, he was quick to provide some food for thought, something for people to think about and discuss, something for politicians to think about before enacting or vetoing any measures being debated first in Bonn and later in Berlin. Schmidt was considered the face of Germany in the 1970s but is really the face of European politics and international affairs, for his policies and advocacy for a more European model of politics, while ensuring that countries are able to keep their sovereignty and maintain a democratic regime in tact. Cooperation was for him the key to a peaceful environment, something that was anything but that during the Cold War, but was later carried out when relations between the United States and the Soviet Union warmed up and eventually, when the two divided Germanys became one in 1990. Schmidt made and maintained ties with many politicians, many of them are still alive today. But despite warnings of smoking being unhealthy, Schmidt was unphased by it, for smoking was still for the intellectuals, and he provided that no matter where he went or who he talked with. Schmidt will be missed for his character and his guidance in international affairs, especially now, when we have bigger issues affecting Germany and we have to go on without him, or at least with the lessons he gave us.
Schmidt is survived by his daughter, Susanne, who has followed his father’s footsteps by working for Bloomberg Television, but is preceded in death by his wife Hannelore “Loki”, who died in 2010, and his infant son. Leb wohl Herr Schmidt und vielen Dank für Ihre Beiträge und Mithilfe. Gott segnet Sie.
Helmut Schmidt Highlights: