Birthday: December 23, 1918
Died At Age: 96
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Also Known As: Helmut Heinrich Waldemar Schmidt
Born Country: Germany
Born in: Hamburg, Germany
Famous as: Politician
Height: 5'8" (173 cm), 5'8" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Loki Schmidt (m. 1942–2010)
father: Gustav Ludwig Schmidt
mother: Ludovica Schmidt
children: Helmut Walter Schmidt, Susanne Schmidt
Died on: November 10, 2015
place of death: Hamburg
City: Hamburg, Germany
education: University of Hamburg
awards: Iron Cross 2nd Class
Who was Helmut Schmidt?
Helmut Heinrich Waldemar Schmidt was a German statesman and twice-elected Social Democrat chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). His tenure lasted from 1974 to 1982. Originally from Hamburg, Schmidt was educated at the Hamburg Lichtwark School and the University of Hamburg. Despite being part-Jewish, he joined the Hitler Youth organization. During World War II, he served in the Luftwaffe between 1937 and 1945. After the war, in 1946, he joined politics as a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. In the ensuing years, he served as the senator of the Interior of Hamburg, member of the Bundestag for Hamburg-Nord II, member of the Bundestag for Hamburg, member of the Bundestag for Hamburg-Bergedorf, and leader of the SPD group in the Bundestag in West Germany. Schmidt helmed the defence ministry of West Germany between 1969 and 1972, and the finance ministry between 1972 and 1974. During his tenure as the chancellor, he concentrated on international affairs, pursued "political unification of Europe in partnership with the United States", and introduced proposals that resulted in the NATO Double-Track Decision in 1979 to place the US Pershing II missiles to Europe. An extremely dynamic diplomat, his efforts paved the way for the establishment of the European Monetary System in 1978. In 1986, Schmidt left politics.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on December 23, 1918, in Hamburg, Weimar Republic, Helmut Schmidt was the eldest of two sons of Ludovica Koch and Gustav Ludwig Schmidt. Both his parents were teachers. Gustav’s biological father was a Jewish banker named Ludwig Gumpel. This remained a family secret for many years until Schmidt publicly spoke about it in 1984.
He was raised in a working-class household along with his young brother Wolfgang. He attended Hamburg Lichtwark School and obtained his diploma in 1937. He went back to school after the war ended, enrolling at the University of Hamburg. In 1949, he graduated with degrees in economics and political science.
Schmidt was a member of the Hitler Youth organization, and until 1936, he served as one of its group leaders (Scharführer). He was then given a demotion and was forced to go on leave due to his anti-Nazi views.
However, recently declassified documents from 1942 commend his "Impeccable national-socialist (Nazi) behaviour". Furthermore, his superiors wrote that Schmidt "stands the ground of national-socialist ideology, knowing that he must pass it on.”
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Career in the Military
In 1937, Helmut Schmidt joined the Luftwaffe as a volunteer. His earliest assignment was with an anti-aircraft battery at Vegesack near Bremen. During the initial days of World War II, he took part in the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 before coming back to Germany in 1942 to serve as a trainer and advisor at the Ministry of Aviation.
In December 1944, he was appointed an Oberleutnant in the Flakartillery on the Western Front during the Battle of the Bulge and the Ardennes Offensive.
The British apprehended him in April 1945 on Lüneburg Heath, and he spent the next few months (until August) as a prisoner of war in Belgium.
In 1946, Helmut Schmidt became a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). Between 1947 and 1948, he served as the leader of the Socialist German Student League, the student wing of the SPD.
After completing his education, he was employed at the government of the city-state of Hamburg. In 1953, he became a member of the Bundestag for Hamburg. Four years later, he returned to Bundestag after being elected from Hamburg-Nord II.
Between December 1961 and December 1965, he was the senator of the Interior of Hamburg, garnering praise as a Macher (doer), someone who is extremely productive at their job despite the obstacles. He went back to federal politics in 1965, after successfully contesting for the Bundestag seat from Hamburg.
Following the creation of the Grand Coalition between the SPD and the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in 1967, Helmut Schmidt was appointed chairman of the Social Democratic parliamentary party, a position that he occupied until the elections of 1969. From 1969 to 1987, Schmidt was a member of the Bundestag for Hamburg-Bergedorf.
In October 1969, he joined the Willy Brandt government as the defence minister. In July 1972, he replaced Karl Schiller as the minister for economics and finances. However, in November that year, he gave up the economics portfolio. He continued to be the minister of finance of Germany and was confronted with the possibility of rising inflation.
In the days leading up to the Oil Shock of 1973, Schmidt vocalised his support for the notion that the European currencies should be floated in comparison with the US dollar.
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Chancellor of West Germany
After the espionage scandal known as the Guillaume affair took place, Brandt resigned, and Helmut Schmidt subsequently became the chancellor, on May 16, 1974. He demonstrated himself to be a highly capable leader and was very popular during his tenure. This led to his and the SPD’s victories in two consecutive federal elections, in 1976 and 1980.
Schmidt was widely respected by the people in West Germany. An energetic diplomat, he was equally admired internationally. His influence was significant among other world leaders. In foreign affairs, he pursued the restoration of closer ties with the Soviet-bloc countries of eastern Europe, while strengthening West Germany’s alliance with the United States.
Helmut Schmidt fostered friendly diplomatic relations with the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and simultaneously upheld West Germany’s crucial status in the European Community and NATO military alliance.
While the entire world was suffering from recession in the early 1980s, he stood firm on his position of not abandoning West Germany’s social welfare programs, which resulted in a dispute with the centrist Free Democrats, which subsequently left the coalition.
As he did not have his voting majority any longer, he was forced to submit his resignation from chancellorship following a vote of no confidence in the Bundestag on October 1, 1982.
After him, the Christian Democratic Union’s Helmut Kohl became West Germany’s chancellor. Schmidt continued being active in politics afterwards, serving as a Bundestag member.
In 1986, he quit politics after a disagreement with the SPD's left wing, which was against his views on defence and economic issues. In 1986, he was one of the most prolific advocates of European monetary union and a European Central Bank.
A noted author, Helmut Schmidt had written at least four memoirs, including ‘Menschen und Mächte’ (1987) and ‘Weggefährten’ (1996). He had also published political books like ‘Balance of Power’ (1971), ‘Men and Powers: A Political Retrospective’ (1989), and ‘Ausser Dienst’ (2008).
During World War II, Helmut Schmidt received the Iron Cross 2nd Class.
Personal Life & Family
Helmut Schmidt exchanged wedding vows with his childhood sweetheart, Hannelore "Loki" Glaser, on June 27, 1942. The couple had two children together, son Helmut Walter (1944-45) and daughter Susanne (born 1947). They were married for 68 years until Loki passed away in October 2010 at the age of 91.
In August 2012, during an interview, Schmidt, aged 93, said that he had developed romantic feelings towards his long-standing associate Ruth Loah. They lived together until his death.
Death & Interment
A heavy smoker, Helmut Schmidt had a cardiac pacemaker installed in 1981. On September 2, 2015, Schmidt had a surgery due to a vascular occlusion in his right leg. He was let go from the hospital on 17 September. Although he showed progress, his health deteriorated again on 8 November.
He passed away on November 10, 2015, at his home in Hamburg. He was 96 years old at the time. He was laid to rest at Ohlsdorf Cemetery beside his parents and wife.