Helmut Schmidt Helmut Schmidt dies at 96

One of the most important chancellors in postwar Germany’s history and one of most iconic Hamburg residents died on November 10th, 2015. In December, he would have turned 97. You can send your condolences online below the article. 

Zum Tode Helmut Schmidts

On December 23rd, 1918, Helmut Heinrich Waldemar Schmidt was born to teachers Gustav and Ludovica Schmidt. Together with his brother Wolfgang, young Helmut grew up in simple conditions in Hamburg’s working class district of Barmbek.

During the Third Reich, Schmidt was forced to join the Hitlerjugend but was expelled at age 17 because of his outspoken political beliefs.

After the war, he studied economics and became a leading figure in Hamburg’s economic and political landscape as well as, in 1953, representative in the German Bundestag. In 1961 he became Hamburg’s Senator of the Interior and as such was the most important figure in Hamburg’s disastrous 1962 flood. Directly defying the German constitution, Schmidt’s bold and pragmatic decision-making saved many lives.  

During his second nomination for the German Bundestag, Schmidt became chairman of the Social Democrat Party and, in 1969, minister of defence as well as minister of finance in 1972.   

In 1974, after Willy Brandt laid down his office, Helmut Schmidt became the German chancellor during a decidedly complicated time in more recent German history. Schmidt dealt with the depression era, the economic recession and the oil crisis in a way that left Germany less damaged than other industrialized nations.

Especially his calm and relentless way to deal with the terrorist attacks of the RAF made him one of the most important world leaders of the time. As such he was also one the first to be outspoken against a further militarization in the Cold War era.  

After his career in politics ended in 1984, Schmidt was co-publisher of liberal weekly Die Zeit and author of several books.  

He was married to Loki Schmidt for 68 years, until her death in 2010.

Schmidt was known for his eloquent and poignant rhetoric as well as his economic and strategic know-how. He has never denied his profound love for tobacco, and non-smoking laws were often temporarily ignored when Helmut Schmidt appeared in public places. He remained a popular guest in German talkshows until recently.