Helmut Schmidt

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For the parapsychologist, see Helmut Schmidt (parapsychologist).
Helmut Schmidt


In office
May 16, 1974 – October 1, 1982
Preceded by Willy Brandt
Succeeded by Helmut Kohl

Born December 23, 1918
Political party SPD

Helmut Heinrich Waldemar Schmidt (born December 23, 1918) is a German Social Democratic politician. He was the Chancellor of West Germany from 1974 to 1982, as well as Minister of Defense and Minister of Finance. He also served briefly as Minister of Economics and as Foreign Minister.


[edit] Background

Helmut Schmidt was born in Hamburg, the son of two teachers. He was educated at Hamburg Lichtwark school, graduating in 1937. He was conscripted into military service and began World War II serving with the Bremen air defences. After brief service on the eastern front he returned to Germany in 1942 to work as a trainer and advisor at the Reichsluftfahrtministerium. Also in 1942 he married his childhood sweetheart Hannelore "Loki" Glaser. Toward the end of the war, from December 1944 onwards, he served as First Lieutenant in the artillery on the western front. He was captured by the British in April 1945 in the Lüneburg Heath and was a prisoner of war until August.

Schmidt's father was the illegitimate son of a Jewish businessman, although this was kept secret in the family. Only under pressure did Helmut Schmidt publicly admit the fact in 1984, after journalists had learned of it from his friend Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the former president of the French Republic. Later it became clear that, in fact, Giscard had asked Schmidt about it before saying anything.

Schmidt completed his education in Hamburg, studying economics and political science. He graduated in 1949.

[edit] Political career

[edit] Early years

Schmidt had joined the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in 1946, and from 1947 to 1948 was leader of the Sozialistische Deutsche Studentenbund (SDS), the then-student organisation of the SPD.

Upon leaving the university, he worked for the government of the city-state of Hamburg, working in the department of economic policy. Beginning in 1952, under Karl Schiller, he was a senior figure in the Behörde für Wirtschaft und Verkehr (the Hamburg State Ministry for Economy and Transport). From 1953 until 1962 he worked for the SPD on the Bundestag.

He was elected to the Bundestag in 1953, and in 1957 he became member of the SPD parliamentary party executive. A vocal critic of conservative government policy, his outspoken rhetoric in parliament earned him the nick-name "Schmidt-Schnauze" (Schmidt-loud mouth). In 1958 he joined the national board of the SPD (Bundesvorstand) and campaigned against nuclear weapons and the equipping of the Bundeswehr with such devices. In 1958 he gave up his seat in parliament to concentrate on his tasks in Hamburg.

[edit] Senator

The government of the city-state of Hamburg is known as the Senate, and from 1961 Schmidt was the Innensenator, that is Minister of the Interior. He gained the reputation as a Macher (doer)—someone who gets things done regardless of obstacles—by his effective management during the emergency caused by the 1962 flood. Schmidt used all means at his disposal to allieviate the situation, even when that meant overstepping his legal authority, including federal police and army units (ignoring the German constitution's prohibition on using the army for "internal affairs;" a clause excluding disasters was not added until 1968). Describing his actions, Schmidt said, "I have not been put in charge of these units; I have taken charge of them!"

It would become the leading characteristic associated with him during his entire political career, best symbolised by his well known remark that "People who have a vision should go see a doctor".

[edit] Leader of the SPD faction and minister in the federal government

In 1965 he was re-elected to the Bundestag and became head of the SPD faction in 1967 and deputy chairman of the party in 1968. He had his first cabinet post in October 1969 as Defence Minister under Willy Brandt. From July to November 1972 he was Minister for Economics and Finance. The Economics Ministry was again made a separate ministry in December 1972, and from December 1972 until May 1974 Schmidt served as Minister of Finance.

[edit] Chancellor

He became Chancellor of West Germany on 16 May 1974 after Brandt's resignation in the wake of a political scandal. The worldwide economic recession was the main concern of his administration, and Schmidt took a tough and conservative line. He was also active in improving relations with France and Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and in 1975 he was a signatory of the Helsinki Final Act to create the OSCE. He remained chancellor after the 1976 elections in coalition with the FDP. His policy over the terrorist Rote Armee Fraktion was uncertain but he usually held to a tough, no compromise line. Specifically, he authorized the GSG 9 anti-terrorist unit to end the hijacking of the Lufthansa aircraft Landshut by force in the German Autumn of 1977.

He tied his political future strongly to NATO expansion following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and tied his party firmly to the NATO Double-Track Decision concerning the deployment of medium-range nuclear missiles in Western Europe, keeping in mind the upcoming Bundestag elections in the fall of 1980. He was reappointed as chancellor in November 1980. In October 1981 Schmidt was fitted with a cardiac pacemaker.

In February 1982 he won a Motion of Confidence, however in September 1982 four FDP ministers left his cabinet. After attempts to continue with a minority government (composed only of SPD members), he was forced to resign by a Constructive Vote of No Confidence on 1 October, the first in German history to be successful. He was succeeded by Helmut Kohl.

[edit] After politics

Helmut Schmidt

In 1983 he joined the nationwide weekly Die Zeit newspaper as co-editor. In 1985 he became Managing Director. With Takeo Fukuda he founded the Inter Action Councils in 1983. He retired from the Bundestag in 1986 but remained active. In December 1986 he was one of the founders of the committee supporting the EMU and the creation of the European Central Bank.

[edit] Miscellaneous

  • Due to his abilities as a really sharp orator he was nicknamed "Schmidt-Schnauze"
  • He was a great admirer of the philosopher Karl Popper, and contributed a Foreword to the 1982 Festschrift in Popper's honor.<ref>Helmut Schmidt, "The Way of Freedom," in In Pursuit of Truth: Essays on the Philosophy of Karl Popper, On the Occasion of his 80th Birthday, ed. Paul Levinson, Humanities Press, 1982, pp. xi-xii.</ref>
  • He had a son who died as an infant and a daughter Susanne, born 1947, who works for a Japanese banking company in the UK.

[edit] References


[edit] Schmidt's first term as Federal Chancellor, 16 May 1974 – 15 December 1976


[edit] Schmidt's second term as Federal Chancellor, 15 December 1976 – 5 November 1980


[edit] Schmidt's third term as Federal Chancellor, 5 November 1980 – 17 September 1982


  • 28 January 1981 - Jürgen Schmude (SPD) succeeds Vogel as Minister of Justice. Björn Engholm succeeds Schmude as Minister of Education and Science.
  • 28 April 1982 - Hans Matthöfer (SPD) succeeds Gscheidle as Minister of Posts and Communications. Manfred Lahnstein (SPD) succeeds Matthöfer as Minister of Finance. Heinz Westphal (SPD) succeeds Ehrenberg as Minister of Labour and Social Affairs. Anke Fuchs (SPD) succeeds Huber as Minister of Youth, Family, and Health.
  • 17 September 1982 - All the Free Democratic ministers quit the government. Helmut Schmidt (SPD) succeeds Genscher as Minister of Foreign Affairs. Jürgen Schmude (SPD) succeeds Baum as Minister of the Interior, remaining also Minister of Justice. Manfred Lahnstein (SPD) succeeds Lambsdorff as Minister of Economics, remaining also Minister of Finance. Björn Engholm (SPD) succeeds Ertl as Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Forestry, remaining also Minister of Education and Science.

[edit] External links

Political offices
Preceded by:
Wilhelm Kröger
Senator of the Interior of Hamburg
Succeeded by:
Heinz Ruhnau
Preceded by:
Fritz Erler
Chairman of the SPD faction
Succeeded by:
Herbert Wehner
Preceded by:
Gerhard Schröder
Minister of Defence
Succeeded by:
Georg Leber
Preceded by:
Karl Schiller
Minister of Finance
Succeeded by:
Hans Apel
Preceded by:
Karl Schiller
Minister of Economics
7 July-15 December 1972
Succeeded by:
Hans Friderichs
Preceded by:
Willy Brandt
Chancellor of Germany
Succeeded by:
Helmut Kohl
Preceded by:
Hans-Dietrich Genscher
Foreign Minister of Germany
17 September–1 October 1982
Succeeded by:
Hans-Dietrich Genscher
Preceded by:
James Callaghan
Chair of the G7
Succeeded by:
Masayoshi Ohira
Chancellors of Germany

Image:Flag of the German Empire.svg German Empire (1871–1918): Otto von Bismarck | Leo von Caprivi | Prince Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst | Bernhard von Bülow | Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg | Georg Michaelis | Georg von Hertling | Prince Maximilian of Baden • Image:Flag of Germany (2-3).svg Weimar Republic (1919–1933): Friedrich Ebert/Hugo Haase | Philipp Scheidemann | Gustav Bauer | Hermann Müller | Konstantin Fehrenbach | Joseph Wirth | Wilhelm Cuno | Gustav Stresemann | Wilhelm Marx | Hans Luther | Wilhelm Marx | Hermann Müller | Heinrich Brüning | Franz von Papen | Kurt von Schleicher • Image:Flag of Germany 1933.svg Nazi Germany (1933–1945): Adolf Hitler | Joseph Goebbels | Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk• Image:Flag of Germany.svg Federal Republic of Germany (1949–): Konrad Adenauer | Ludwig Erhard | Kurt Georg Kiesinger | Willy Brandt | Helmut Schmidt | Helmut Kohl | Gerhard Schröder | Angela Merkel

bg:Хелмут Шмит

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Helmut Schmidt

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