Three Glimpses from the Life of Helmut Schmidt

Helmut and Hannelore SchmidtOf the many obituaries that appeared around the world marking the death of the former chancellor of Germany (1919–2015), let us select three memories:

Mr. Schmidt remained popular, owing in no small part to the affection West Germans felt for his down-to-earth wife, Hannelore Schmidt. A biologist and amateur botanist, she eschewed ceremony in favor of promoting conservation and protecting endangered plants. Flowers in Latin America and Africa were named after her, and she wrote or co-wrote books on plants and ecology. She died in 2010 at 91.

Asked to assess his successor, Mr. Kohl, Schmidt was characteristically withering. “I think there are two or three fields in which he needs a lot of education,” he told The New York Times. Asked which ones, he answered, “International affairs, arms control and military strategy, and economics and finance.”

He was a chain smoker – the only person who was allowed to smoke on German television.

Source: The New York Times, November 10


One response to “Three Glimpses from the Life of Helmut Schmidt

  1. David Schatzky


    I was a student in the then-West Germany when Helmut Schmidt became chancellor in 1974, following in the wake of the charismatic and Nobel Peace Prize-winning “Willy” Brandt (A Wise Chancellor – editorial, Nov. 12).

    Not long before, in fact, I had marched in my first demonstration, in support of Mr. Brandt’s politics of détente with the East. This far-seeing policy proved to be the requisite groundwork for Mikhail Gorbachev’s crucial role in the dissolution of the Soviet Empire in 1989. Mr. Schmidt had big shoes to fill, which he did more as a solid technocrat than the visionary that Mr. Brandt was.

    Someone in the Social Democratic election campaign that year deserves a medal, however. That was the time when McDonald’s was invading every town and village in the Bundesrepublik, golden arches sprouting up in every pedestrian zone and Marktplatz.

    Mr. Schmidt of course hailed from Hamburg, and one day in that city I found myself on a subway platform across from a huge SPD election billboard. Under Mr. Schmidt’s super-sized picture were the words: Deutschland’s Beliebtester Hamburger – “Germany’s Favourite Hamburger.”

    He was. Mr. Schmidt won the election. Without fries.

    Glenn Walton, Halifax