Helmut Schmidt

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Helmut Schmidt, Helmut Heinrich Waldemar Schmidt , Гельмут Шмидт, Helmut Heinrich Waldemar Schmidt
Economist, Minister, Nominee, Politician, Prime minister, WWII participant
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Helmut Heinrich Waldemar Schmidt (23 December 1918 – 10 November 2015) was a German Social Democratic (SPD) politician who served as Chancellor of West Germany from 1974 to 1982. Prior to becoming Chancellor, he had served as Minister of Defence (1969–72). As Minister of Finance (1972–74), he gained credit for financial policies that consolidated the Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle), giving Germany the most stable currency and economic position in the world. He had also served briefly as Minister of Economics and as acting Foreign Minister. As Chancellor, he focused on international affairs, seeking "political unification of Europe in partnership with the United States". He was an energetic diplomat who sought European co-operation and international economic co-ordination. He was re-elected chancellor in 1976 and 1980, but his coalition fell apart in 1982 with the switch by his coalition allies, the Free Democratic Party. He retired from Parliament in 1987, after clashing with the SPD's left wing, who opposed him on defence and economic issues. In 1986 he was a leading proponent of European monetary union and a European central bank.


Helmut Schmidt was born in Hamburg in 1918, the first of two sons of two teachers, Ludovica (born Koch) and Gustav Ludwig Schmidt. Schmidt studied at Hamburg Lichtwark School, graduating in 1937. Schmidt's father was the illegitimate son of a German Jewish businessman, although this was kept a family secret for many years. This was confirmed publicly by Helmut Schmidt in 1984, after Valéry Giscard d'Estaing revealed the fact to journalists, apparently with Schmidt's assent. Schmidt himself is a non-practising Lutheran.

Schmidt was a group leader (Scharführer) in the Hitler Youth organization until 1936 when he was demoted and sent on leave because of his anti-Nazi views. On 27 June 1942, he married his childhood sweetheart Hannelore "Loki" Glaser (3 March 1919 – 21 October 2010). They had two children: Helmut Walter (26 June 1944 – February 1945, died of meningitis), and Susanne (b. 1947), who works in London for Bloomberg Television. Schmidt resumed his education in Hamburg after the war, graduating in economics and political science in 1949.

Military service

Schmidt was conscripted into military service in 1937 and began serving with an anti-aircraft battery at Vegesack near Bremen during World War II. After brief service on the Eastern Front, including the Siege of Leningrad, he returned to Germany in 1942 to work as a trainer and advisor at the Ministry of Aviation. He attended the People's Court, presided over by Roland Freisler, as an army spectator at some of the show trials for officers involved in 20 July plot where an unsuccessful attempt was made to assassinate Hitler at Rastenburg and was disgusted by the whole process. Toward the end of the war, from December 1944 onwards, he served as an Oberleutnant in the Flakartillery on the Western Front. He was captured by the British in April 1945 on Lüneburg Heath and was a prisoner of war until August. During his service in World War II Schmidt was awarded the Iron Cross.

Political career

Early years

Schmidt joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in 1946, and from 1947 to 1948 was leader of the Socialist German Student League, the 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).

He was elected to the Bundestag in 1953, and in 1957 he became a member of the SPD parliamentary party executive. A vocal critic of conservative government policy, his outspoken rhetoric in parliament earned him the nickname "Schmidt-Schnauze" (Schmidt, the 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.


The government of the city-state of Hamburg is known as the Senate of Hamburg, and from 1961 to 1965 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 alleviate 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 wasn't put in charge of these units – I took charge of them!"

Return to federal politics

In 1965, he was re-elected to the Bundestag. In 1967, after the formation of the Grand Coalition between SPD and Christian Democratic Union (CDU), he became chairman of the Social Democrat parliamentary party, a post he held until the elections of 1969. In 1968, he was elected deputy party chairman, a post that he held until 1984. Between 1968 to 1983, Schmidt was deputy chairman of the SPD. Unlike Willy Brandt and Gerhard Schröder, he never became chairman of the party.

In October 1969, he entered the government of Willy Brandt as defence minister. During his term in office the military conscription time was reduced from 18 to 15 months, while at the same time increasing the number of young men being conscribed. Additionally, Schmidt decided to introduce the Bundeswehr universities in Hamburg and Munich to broaden the academic education of the German officer corps. In July 1972, he succeeded Karl Schiller as Minister for Economics and Finances, but in November 1972, he relinquished the Economics department, which was again made a separate ministry. Schmidt remained Minister of Finances until May 1974.


Schmidt became Chancellor of West Germany on 16 May 1974, after Brandt's resignation in the wake of an espionage scandal. The worldwide economic recession was the main concern of his administration, and Schmidt took a tough and disciplined line, reducing public spending. Schmidt was also active in improving relations with France. Together with the French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, he was one of the fathers of the world economic summits, the first of which assembled in 1975. In 1975, he was a signatory of the Helsinki Accords to create the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the precursor of today's OSCE.

He remained chancellor after the 1976 elections, in coalition with the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP). He adopted a tough, uncompromising line with the indigenous Red Army Faction (RAF) terrorists. He authorized the GSG 9 anti-terrorist unit to end the Palestinian terrorist hijacking of the Lufthansa aircraft Landshut, undertaken to secure the release of RAF leaders imprisoned in Stammheim Prison, after it landed in Mogadishu by assaulting the aircraft during the German Autumn of 1977. Three of the four terrorists were killed during the hostage rescue.

Schmidt was re-elected as chancellor in November 1980.[23][24] In October 1981, he was fitted with a cardiac pacemaker. Concerned about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Soviet superiority regarding missiles in Central Europe, Schmidt issued proposals resulting in the NATO Double-Track Decision concerning the deployment of medium-range nuclear missiles in Western Europe should the Soviets not disarm. The decision was unpopular with the German public. A mass demonstration against the deployment mobilized 400,000 people in October 1981.

At the beginning of his period as chancellor, Schmidt was a proponent of Keynesian economics, and pursued expansionary monetary and fiscal policies during his time as chancellor. Between 1979 and 1982, the Schmidt administration pursued such policies in an effort to reduce unemployment. These were moderately successful, as the fiscal measures introduced after 1977, with reductions in income and wealth taxes and an increase in the medium-term public investment programme, was estimated to have created 160,000 additional jobs in 1978–79, or 300,000 if additional public sector employment was included in the figure. The small fall in the unemployment rate, however, was achieved at the cost of a larger budget deficit (which rose from 31.2 billion DM to 75.7 billion DM in 1981), brought about by fiscal expansion.

During the 70s, West Germany was able to weather the global financial storm far better than almost all the other developed countries, with unemployment and inflation kept at comparatively low levels. During the 1976 election campaign, the SPD / FDP coalition was able to win the battle of statistics, whether the figures related to employee's incomes, strikes, unemployment, growth, or public sector debts. Amongst other social improvements, retirement pensions had been doubled between 1969 and 1976, and unemployment pay increased to 68% of previous earnings.

While visiting Saudi Arabia in April 1981, Schmidt made some unguarded remarks about the Israel-Palestine conflict that succeeded in aggravating the always-delicate relations between Israel and West Germany. Asked by a reporter about the moral aspect of German-Israeli relations, he stated that Israel was not in a position to criticize Germany due to its handling of Palestinians and "That won't do. And in particular, it won't do for a German living in a divided nation and laying moral claim to the right of self-determination for the German people. One must then recognize the moral claim of the Palestinian people to the right of self-determination." On May 3, Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin denounced Schmidt as "unprincipled, avaricious, heartless, and lacking in human feeling" and that he had "willingly served in the German armies that murdered millions". Begin was also upset over remarks he had made on West German television the previous week in which he spoke apologetically about the suffering Germany inflicted on various nations during WWII, but made no mention of the Jews. While flying home from Riyadh, Schmidt told his advisers that war guilt could not continue to affect Germany's foreign relations.

Schmidt was the first world leader to call upon newly elected French president François Mitterrand, who visited Bonn in July. The two found themselves in "complete agreement" on foreign policy matters and relations with the United States and the Soviet Union, but came to blows over trade and economic issues.

By the end of his term, however, Schmidt had turned away from deficit spending, due to a deteriorating economic situation, and a number of welfare cuts were carried out, including smaller increases in child benefits and higher unemployment and health contributions. Large sections of the SPD increasingly opposed his security policy while most of the FDP politicians strongly supported that policy; while representatives of the left wing of the Social Democratic Party opposed reduction of the state expenditures, the FDP began proposing a monetarist economic policy. In February 1982, Schmidt won a motion of confidence, however on 17 September 1982, the coalition broke apart, with the four FDP ministers leaving his cabinet. Schmidt continued to head a minority government composed only of SPD members, while the FDP negotiated a coalition with the CDU/CSU. During this time Schmidt also headed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On 1 October 1982, parliament approved of a Vote of No-Confidence and elected the CDU chairman Helmut Kohl as the new chancellor. This was the only time in the history of the Federal Republic that a chancellor was ousted from office in this way.

Domestic reforms

Although Schmidt did not feel that he was in a position to substantially extend the social reforms of the Brandt Administration, due to the economic problems he encountered during his time as chancellor, a wide range of reforms were nevertheless carried out under his administration. Increases were made to pensions, which went up in numerical terms by 11.1% (1975), 11.0% (1976), 9.9% (1977), 4.5% (1979), 4% (1980), 4% (1981), and 5.8% (1982). Adjusted for changes in the annual price index, pensions went up in real terms by 5.1% (1975), 6.7% (1976), 6.2% (1977), 0.4% (1979), and 0.6% (1982). However, the rate of pension was not changed in 1978 (even though prices increased by 2.7%), and in 1980 and 1981 the real value of pensions fell by 1.5% and 2.3%, respectively. Improvements were made in family allowances, with monthly subsidies for children increased by over 100% in 1975.

Improvements were made to invalidity and old-age pension provision for the unemployed, who (from 1977 onwards) were technically insured free of charge under the old-age pension and invalidity scheme. Previously, there had only existed partial and restricted coverage for the unemployed. The Law to Improve Occupational Old Age Pensions (1974) extended coverage of occupational pensions whilst also "co-ordinating them more closely with state pensions and setting minimum standards as regards benefit levels and the preservation of pension rights". By 1976, as a result of this legislation, 65% of private sector employees were covered by occupational schemes and over two-thirds of these workers were eligible for benefits equal to more than 15% of their earnings at retirement. This legislation also acquired that entitlements to occupational pensions must not expire after leaving a form and that occupational pensions must not be reduced as a result of receipt of benefits under the public insurance system. The Social Insurance Law for the Handicapped (1975) extended compulsory coverage to handicapped persons working in special establishments for the handicapped (medical benefits and cash benefits to replace earnings from work). In 1976, a new declaration of social rights was made, and in 1979, an Act was passed which lowered the pensionable age for severely handicapped persons to 61 years, and to 60 years as from 1980.

In October 1974, a Rehabilitation Benefits Alignment Act was passed with the intention of promoting rehabilitation of the handicapped by extending certain benefits to them. To meet the need for more uniform medical treatment in rural areas and on the peripheral of cities due to a lack of panel doctors in those areas, a bill was passed in December 1976 which improved the possibilities of panel doctors' associations by ensuring that panel doctors were available to provide treatment, while also providing for planning according to need and the participation of the sickness insurances. An Act of August 1975 on criminal law reform introduced "other forms of assistance" such as medical advice on contraception, together with assistance pertaining to sterilisation and abortion. New assistance benefits were created in 1975 for family planning and maternity consultations, whilst a constant attendance allowance was increased. Housing renovation and energy savings legislation was introduced in 1977, while a constitutional reform of 1981 increased federal powers in health and education.

In July 1974, special benefits were introduced to compensate for wages not paid as a result of bankruptcy for a maximum of up three months. Increases in income-limits for housing allowances were carried out, together with housing allowance rates, while major improvements were made in welfare provision for the elderly. By 1982, the purchasing power of the average pension was 2.5% better than in 1975. In 1975, tax allowances were replaced by child benefit, while payment for the first child was introduced. A tax relief act reduced income taxes and provided additional tax benefits for housing allowances. The Schmidt administration also introduced social policy legislation in the late seventies which increased family allowances (though by a smaller amount than in 1974) and maternity leave benefits. The increases in benefits under the Schmidt administration arguably had a positive impact on reducing inequalities, with the percentage of West Germans living in poverty (according to one measurement) falling between 1978 and 1982.

A law of June 1974 on the reform of criminal law obliged the expectant mother, who anticipates an interruption of pregnancy during the first twelve weeks, to enquire about private and public assistance available to mothers and children. The Federal Ministry for Youth, Family Affairs and Health launched, by virtue of complementary measures to the criminal law reform, a pilot scheme of a scientific nature involving the setting-up of 53 advisory centres to help achieve a quantitative and qualitative improvement in this field. Particular attention was also been given to the development of parental and family education, and it was for this reason that the Brandt Administration encouraged the extension of the 'letters to parents' sent by the Ministry whenever a child is born, and subsequently at regular intervals, until the child reaches school age. A law of July 1974 amending the Federal Law on the promotion of vocational training increased the required rates and allowances by 20% on average, along with the lump-sum payments for social security, and extended the assistance given irrespective of parental income to older trainees who can expect little if any support from their parents. On 1 August 1974, the provisions of a law amending the Federal Law for the promotion of vocational training and the Law on the upgrading of employment of 14 November 1973 came into force. This Law provided for the extension of training facilities to new sections of the population and for financial support so that further sections of the population could also acquire vocational training. A law on old people's homes and adult hostels, passed in August 1974, was aimed at safeguarding the interests and needs of people who reside in these establishments, controlling the prices charged there, and providing advice for elderly persons and those in charge of the establishments and to guarantee the necessary medical care. Under the law, the residents could participate in the management of the establishment through a consultative committee. A law of June 1975 amended the Employment Protection Law and the Law on the provision of temporary workers which improved the legal protection of temporary migrants workers in West Germany. A law of December 1975 gave the right to claim under the sickness insurance scheme for medical consultations for family planning purposes. A law of May 1975 extended social security to handicapped persons according to various procedures.

A law of April 1976 on youth employment limited working hours to 40 hours in a 5-day week, raised the minimum working age from 14 to 15, increased leave, improved conditions for release from work for day attendance at vocational training school and for periods of weeks under the block release system, and improved protection at work by restrictions on employment in dangerous or unhealthy work. A law on protection against dismissal was amended by abolishing the minimum age limit of 18, so that young workers under eighteen were now also protected against dismissal. The Ministry for Youth, Family Affairs and Health encouraged a pilot scheme, of a scientific nature, aimed at promoting the development of qualified advisory services on family planning, sexual problems and problems linked with pregnancy. A regulation of June 1976 laid down detailed rules governing 'aid to overcome particular social difficulties'. This measure was specially aimed at marginal social groups, such as former convicts and the homeless, and consisted of providing information, personal guidance, help in obtaining and maintaining a home and in obtaining and keeping a job, in addition to guidance as regards training and the organization of leisure time. The general section of the Social Code, which came into effect in January 1976, introduced basic measures concerning the social services. It laid down an obligation to establish the services and institutions needed by the population and to provide them with information and advice on their social rights. These provisions had already had certain effects, in particular a considerable growth in home help services and social centres. A regulation in application of a 1974 law on old people's homes and adult hostels was introduced, according to which compulsory consultative committees could be set up by the residents to ensure their participation in the running of these establishments in a greater measure than in the past. A law passed in August 1974 supplemented the protection provided for handicapped people under a law passed during the Brandt Administration in April 1974 by providing that, henceforth, the benefits for the purposes of medical and occupational rehabilitation would be the same for all the categories of persons concerned: war victims, the sick, the victims of industrial accidents, congenitally handicapped persons: a total of about 4 million persons in all.

The 1976 Act for the Promotion of Urban Development and the 1977 Housing Modernisation Act, together with the 1971 Act for the Promotion of Urban Development passed by the Brandt Administration, enabled most West German cities by the end of the Seventies to introduce programmes aimed at renovating their pre-war residential areas. Additional tax reforms were introduced that lowered the tax burden on low-income households, and which played an important role "in pre-empting a real decline in the income and purchasing power of workers". A law was passed to encourage low-income home ownership, while 250 million marks was provided in 1978 for the promotion of sports and physical education. That same year, entitlement to educational allowances was extended to all tenth-grade pupils in vocational education.

The Introductory Tax Reform Law (1974) increased bad weather payments, part-time workers' benefits and insurance benefits to 68% of net wages, fixed special benefits during vocational training at 90% of net earnings, increased assistance benefits to 58% of net earnings, and abolished special family benefits "in favour of the inclusion of the unemployed under general child allowance scheme". A special tax credit was introduced in 1978 in cases of particular financial burden due to children, while a substantial increase in the child allowance was made in 1979. Several policy changes were carried out between 1976 and 1982, such as tax credits and family allowances, which compensated unions for wage restraint and "guaranteed the maintenance of a constant income level for employed persons and their families". Increases were made in child benefits, which rose on a regular basis (particularly for families with more than one child) for most of the years that the Schmidt Administration was in office.

In terms of workplace rights, a "parity" system was introduced (although in a weakened form) on the supervisory boards of all companies employing over 2,000 workers, a reform which West German trade unions had long fought for. This law improved employee representation on the supervisory boards of companies outside the steel and coal industries. The main provision of this new piece of legislation was that in the 650 major companies that accounted for 70% of West Germany's output, employee representation on the supervisory boards rose from one-third to one-half. In 1976, the Young Persons (Protection of Employment) Act was passed, which forbade the employment of children and young persons required to attend full-time education, with minor exceptions.

Various measures were also carried out to mitigate the effects of unemployment. Employment creation schemes were introduced to help young workers. The Training Opportunities Act (1976) helped (over a four-year period) to increase the number of vocational training places from 450,000 to 630,000 a year. In 1976, a provisional law was introduced to boost the number of apprentices, which reduced the numbers of young people out of work. An experimental retraining programme was launched on the shop floor (lasting from 1979 to 1981), which benefited 45,680 people.

In June 1974, a reformed food law was passed into law, which aimed to safeguard consumers from physical harm. The Students' Sickness Insurance Law (1975) extended compulsory coverage to students (medical benefits only), while the Artists' Social Insurance Law (1981) introduced compulsory insurance for artists below a certain income-limit. The Detergents Law (1975) and the Effluency Levies Act (1978) were passed to encourage environmental protection. In 1975, the allowable duration of unemployment benefit payment was extended to twenty-four months during periods of general recession. The 1976 law on standard terms of sale gave consumer groups the right to file suits against companies employing unfair terms of sale. The Higher Education Framework Act of 1976 pronounced that scientific continuing education was a task to be implemented by the institutions of the system of higher education, thus exceeding their traditional tasks of research and lecturing. In 1977, an "investment programme for the future" was decided upon by the Schmidt Administration, which provided DM 16 thousand million for the improvement of the transport system, an efficient and ecological energy supply, provisions for water supply, vocational training, and the safeguarding of the environment.

The social protection of civil servants and judges (Bund and Lander) was standardised and improved by a law of August 1974. Under a law of May 1976, victims of acts of violence and their survivors would in future have the right to compensation in respect of the physical and economic consequences in the same manner as protection for war victims. In 1977, DM 8 million was made available by the federal government to welfare bodies to build and modernise holiday homes for families. That same year, the conditions for investment in the privately financed construction of rented dwellings were improved by the reintroduction of decreasing depreciation for buildings. In order to take the situation of the unemployed into account to the maximum possible extent in asset formation policy, certain legal provisions were amended so that in the event of unemployment, personal payments could be made to continue savings plans which entailed employers contributions. In addition, workers who had been unemployed for a year or more could unblock savings plans before the end of the freeze without losing the financial benefits offered by the State. A new special programme with funds of DM 100 million was launched at the start of 1978 to improve training and job opportunities for the handicapped. The budget of the Federal Labour Office was increased exceptionally by more than 20%, whilst special emphasis was placed on measures to promote vocational training, job creation, advanced training and retraining. The aim was to reduce the high proportion of unemployed persons lacking training and increase the chances of this group to obtain employment.

Under a regulation of December 1976, four new occupational diseases were recognised. To expand training opportunities for girls, a pilot scheme was launched in 1978 to open up certain skilled industrial and technical occupations to them. Laws restricting the access of migrant workers to certain regions were repealed in 1977, and the existing provisions were made more flexible in order to allow the children of migrant workers who had entered the Federal Republic of Germany in 1975/76 access to employment. Legislation governing old people's homes and adult assistance establishments was further supplemented by two regulations, one imposing minimum requirements concerning premises, and the other laying down rules for financial management to ensure that residents were not financially exploited.

The Fifth Amendment of July 1979 to the Employment Promotion Law provided among other things for an improvement in conditions governing financial support towards basic vocational training for unemployed young people with at least one year's vocational experience, the expansion of training activities for jobs in which there is a shortage of skilled workers and easier access to further vocational training facilities for problem groups (such as the unskilled, the unemployed, and women generally). In 1979, the Federal Minister for Education and Science made funds available for a new further education establishment to train instructors. Under a law amending the law respecting technical working media and the Industrial Code of August 1979, machines and equipment which had been voluntarily submitted for testing and passed by an established body may bear the marking 'GS' (=safety-tested). For medical equipment, the Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs was authorized to issue orders containing further safety provisions, while the resale of hazardous equipment and its display at exhibitions may be prohibited in future by factory inspectors even in the case of trading companies.

In 1979 DM 219 million was set aside for about 80,000 dwellings under the modernisation programme for dwellings worthy of preservation run jointly by the Federal authorities and the individual Lander (50% of this money was earmarked for modernization priority areas). In addition, DM 2 350 million was made available under a five-year programme to improve the housing stock. Loans and higher tax rebates were also used to encourage modernisation of dwellings and energy-saving measures. 577 slum clearance and urban development schemes in 459 municipalities were also accorded financial support amounting to DM 183.5 million under a law on the promotion of urban development. A law of October 1979 granted a lump-sum allowance for the winter of 1979/80 to help low-income groups to meet the additional outlay incurred by the rise in fuel costs. In August 1979, a programme was adopted for foreign refugees, with resources allocated for aid concerning information, legal advice, psycho-social and medical assistance and for measures to facilitate the integration of refugees or their emigration to other countries.

Under a law of July 1980, a farmer's surviving spouse wishing to continue working on the farm could obtain a helper or temporary aid from the agricultural pension fund. Any spouse choosing not to do so was entitled to a survivor's allowance if he or she was no longer able to find suitable paid employment either for reasons of age (over 45) or because there were children to bring up. In other cases, the allowance was designed to facilitate reintegration into working life. This allowance guaranteed the spouse protection under the agricultural sickness insurance scheme, which also covered self-employed fishermen and beekeepers.

A special programme was introduced, specially designed for young people who, because of their poor level of education and language ability, were unable to find a suitable job or training place. The young people were offered a one-year full-time course of training to qualify them for a training place or job, and in September 1980, approximately 15,000 young people were participating in these courses. From 1980 onwards, parents could deduct the cost of day care for their children (in day nurseries and nursery schools in particular) from their taxable income up to an annual maximum of DM 600 or DM 1,200 depending on whether the income of a single parent or that of a married couple was involved. Major additions were also made to the regulations on dangerous substances, while comprehensive new regulations concerning installations requiring supervision were introduced. The Federal Ministry for Youth, Family Affairs and Health gave particular attention to assisting parents in assuming their educational responsibilities towards their children. For instance, special 'letters to parents' were distributed free of charge to parents of children under 8, with some 3 million sent in 1979. A determined effort was also made to provide better education for socially disadvantaged children by supporting pilot schemes and research projects. Public funds had been allocated from 1979 onwards to a pilot scheme entitled 'Aid to children in need' under which children's communities were set up in Berlin and Giitersloh to protect and care for children who had been or were at risk of being ill-treated by their parents, while at the same time the family education and advisory services were assigned the task of educating these parents.

In 1981, DM 340 million were set aside for subsidies and DM 148 million for low-interest loans, which enabled financial assistance to be granted towards the modernization of some 80 000 dwellings. An amendment to a law of September 1980 on air traffic, adopted in January 1981, prohibited the transport of radioactive substances by air without a special permit. Existing safety regulations were considerably extended and modified by the technical committees responsible for individual specialist areas. Regarding installations requiring supervision, the technical regulations for pressure containers (19 January 1982) and steam boilers (26 January, 18 March and 8 June 1982) were extended and revised, with their most important provisions concerning the oil- and gas-firing of steam boilers. A Directive on connecting lines designed to carry dangerous fluids (11 June 1982) was issued, together with technical regulations on pressure gases (11 June and 9 July 1982) The existing technical regulations on flammable fluids were also modified and by means of new regulations and directives extended (19 April 1982). Other modifications were made to the technical regulations on high-pressure gas pipelines (22 June and 10 September 1982) and on installations. where acetylene is present and calcium carbide is stored (30 September 1982), while new recommended levels for dangerous working substances were incorporated into the regulations governing these substances (10 May 1982).

A wide range of social liberal reforms were also carried out during Schmidt's time in office. A marriage and divorce law of 1976 instituted the principle of maintenance obligations of each economically stronger partner, That same year, A reform of naming for partners after marriage was carried out, together with a reform of marriage law, which eliminated "moral guilt" as a criterion for alimony payment obligations. The First Marriage Reform Law of 1976 stated that pension entitlements acquired during marriage must be shared with the economically weaker spouse following divorce. In 1977, a law was introduced which enabled married women to enter employment without the permission of their husbands, while prison reforms guaranteed inmates access to courts for any violations of their rights, limited sentences in all but the gravest cases to 15 years, and proclaimed rehabilitation to be the objective of incarceration. In 1977, a Sex Discrimination Act was passed. In 1981, a legal aid system was established to facilitate access to courts of law.

An amendment to the legal code for residency permits was made in 1978, which granted foreign residents the right to unlimited residence permits after five years of continuous residency. The amendment also stated that legal residents would be eligible for a residence entitlement after eight years if certain conditions were met, such as language fluency. In 1979, paid parental leave was extended from 2 to 6 months, while the European directive on equal treatment for women in paid employment was adopted that same year. The Maintenance Security Law of 1979 introduced public advance payments for single parents "not in receipt of maintenance payments from the liable parent". These benefits were made payable up to 36 months, and private claims against a parent not meeting a maintenance liability were taken over by the state. In that same year, four months paid parental leave were introduced for working mothers, while job-protected leave after childbirth was increased from 8 weeks to 6 months. In 1980, a "compliance law" was passed that covered discrimination in hiring, promotion and dismissal, and measures to promote equal pay.

Cabinets during Schmidt's chancellorship

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

  • Helmut Schmidt (SPD) – Chancellor
  • Hans-Dietrich Genscher (FDP) – Vice Chancellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Georg Leber (SPD) – Minister of Defense
  • Werner Maihofer (FDP) – Minister of the Interior
  • Hans Apel (SPD) – Minister of Finance
  • Hans-Jochen Vogel (SPD) – Minister of Justice
  • Hans Friderichs (FDP) – Minister of Economics
  • Walter Arendt (SPD) – Minister of Labour and Social Affairs
  • Josef Ertl (FDP) – Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Forestry
  • Kurt Gscheidle (SPD) – Minister of Transport, Posts, and Communications
  • Karl Ravens (SPD) – Minister of Construction
  • Katharina Focke (SPD) – Minister of Youth, Family, and Health
  • Hans Matthöfer (SPD) – Minister of Research and Technology
  • Helmut Rohde (SPD) – Minister of Education and Science
  • Erhard Eppler (SPD) – Minister of Economic Cooperation
  • Egon Franke (SPD) – Minister of Intra-German Relations


  • 4 July 1974 – Egon Bahr (SPD) succeeds Eppler as Minister of Economic Cooperation.

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

  • Helmut Schmidt (SPD) – Chancellor
  • Hans-Dietrich Genscher (FDP) – Vice Chancellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Georg Leber (SPD) – Minister of Defense
  • Werner Maihofer (FDP) – Minister of the Interior
  • Hans Apel (SPD) – Minister of Finance
  • Hans-Jochen Vogel (SPD) – Minister of Justice
  • Hans Friderichs (FDP) – Minister of Economics
  • Herbert Ehrenberg (SPD) – Minister of Labour and Social Affairs
  • Josef Ertl (FDP) – Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Forestry
  • Kurt Gscheidle (SPD) – Minister of Transportation, Posts, and Communications
  • Karl Ravens (SPD) – Minister of Construction
  • Antje Huber (SPD) – Minister of Youth, Family, and Health
  • Hans Matthöfer (SPD) – Minister of Research and Technology
  • Helmut Rohde (SPD) – Minister of Education and Science
  • Marie Schlei (SPD) – Minister of Economic Cooperation
  • Egon Franke (SPD) – Minister of Intra-German Relations


  • 7 October 1977 – Otto Graf Lambsdorff (FDP) succeeds Friedrichs as Minister of Economics.
  • 16 February 1978 – Hans Apel (SPD) succeeds Leber as Minister of Defense. Hans Matthöfer (SPD) succeeds Apel as Minister of Finance. Volker Hauff succeeds Matthöfer as Minister of Research and Technology. Dieter Haack (SPD) succeeds Ravens as Minister of Construction. Jürgen Schmude (SPD) succeeds Rohde as Minister of Education and Science. Rainer Offergeld (SPD) succeeds Schlei as Minister of Economic Cooperation.
  • 8 June 1978 – Gerhart Baum (FDP) succeeds Maihofer as Minister of the Interior.

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

  • Helmut Schmidt (SPD) – Chancellor
  • Hans-Dietrich Genscher (FDP) – Vice Chancellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Hans Apel (SPD) – Minister of Defense
  • Gerhart Baum (FDP) – Minister of the Interior
  • Hans Matthöfer (SPD) – Minister of Finance
  • Hans-Jochen Vogel (SPD) – Minister of Justice
  • Otto Graf Lambsdorff (FDP) – Minister of Economics
  • Herbert Ehrenberg (SPD) – Minister of Labour and Social Affairs
  • Josef Ertl (FDP) – Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Forestry
  • Volker Hauff (SPD) – Minister of Transport
  • Dieter Haack (SPD) – Minister of Construction
  • Antje Huber (SPD) – Minister of Youth, Family, and Health
  • Andreas von Bülow (SPD) – Minister of Research and Technology
  • Jürgen Schmude (SPD) – Minister of Education and Science
  • Rainer Offergeld (SPD) – Minister of Economic Cooperation
  • Kurt Gscheidle (SPD) – Minister of Posts and Communications
  • Egon Franke (SPD) – Minister of Intra-German Relations


  • 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.

Life after politics

In 1982, along with his friend Gerald Ford, he co-founded the annual AEI World Forum.

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

Contrary to the current line of his party, Helmut Schmidt is a determined opponent of Turkey's entry into the EU. He also opposes phasing out nuclear energy, something that the Red-Green coalition of Gerhard Schröder supported. In 2007, Schmidt described the climate debate as "hysterically overheated". About the Internet, Schmidt said, he perceives it as "threatening".

In 2014, Schmidt said the situation in Ukraine is dangerous, because "Europe, the Americans and also Russia are behaving in the way that the author Christopher Clark, in his book [The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914] that's very much worth reading, describes the start of World War I: like sleepwalkers."

Schmidt is author of numerous books on his political life, on foreign policy and political ethics. He also made appearances in numerous television talk shows. He remained one of the most renowned political publicists in Germany until his death.


Schmidt described the assassinated Egyptian president Anwar as-Sadat as one of his friends from the world of politics, and maintained a friendship with ex-president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing of France. His circle also included former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who was on record as stating that he wished to predecease Helmut Schmidt, because he would not wish to live in a world without Schmidt.

He was also good friends with Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. In 2011 Schmidt, accompanied by Jean Chrétien and Tom Axworthy, made a pilgrimage to the Trudeau family vault in St-Rémi-de-Napierville Cemetery.

Personal life

Schmidt was a great admirer of the philosopher Karl Popper, and contributed a foreword to the 1982 Festschrift in Popper's honor.

The university of Germany's federal armed forces in Hamburg was renamed Helmut Schmidt University – University of the Federal Armed Forces Hamburg in 2003 in honour of the politician who – as minister of defence – had introduced obligatory academic education for German career officers.

Born and raised in Hamburg, Schmidt was regarded in Germany as an embodiment of hanseatic values, according to which he never accepted a medal or an order of merit (not even the Federal Republic's Federal Cross of Merit).

Schmidt was also a talented pianist, and recorded piano concertos of both Mozart and Bach with the well-known German pianist and conductor Christoph Eschenbach. Schmidt recorded Mozart's piano concerto for three pianos, K. 242, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra directed by Eschenbach in 1982 with pianists Eschenbach and Justus Franz for EMI Records (CDC 7 47473 2). In that recording, according to the CD's liner notes, Schmidt played the part written for Countess Antonia Lodron's youngest daughter Guiseppina, "almost a beginner" who commissioned the work. The part brilliantly "enables any reasonably practiced amateur to participate in a performance". The same musical notes also indicate that Schmidt and Franz had played duets during Franz's student days.

Schmidt was a smoker. He was well known for lighting up cigarettes on TV interviews and talkshows. In January 2008, German police launched an enquiry after Schmidt was reported by an anti-smoking initiative for defying the recently introduced smoking ban. The initiative claimed that Helmut Schmidt had been flagrantly ignoring laws "for decades". Despite pictures in the press, the case was subsequently dropped after the public prosecution service decided that Schmidt's actions had not been a threat to public health.

On 6 April 2010, with a lifespan of 33,342 days he surpassed Konrad Adenauer in terms of longevity and at the time of his death was the oldest former chancellor in German history.

His wife, Loki Schmidt, died on 21 October 2010.

At the beginning of August 2012, Schmidt gave an interview on German television and revealed that at 93 years of age he had fallen in love again. His new life-partner is his long-standing associate, Ruth Loah, 79.

In September 2015, Schmidt had to undergo surgery for a blood clot in his leg. After initial improvement, his condition worsened again in November, with his doctor saying he "feared for the worst". He died on 10 November 2015, aged 96.

Honours and awards

In 1988 he received the Freedom medal.

Freedom of the City
  • 1983: Hamburg
  • 1983: Bonn
  • 1983: Bremerhaven
  • 1989: Berlin
  • 1995: Güstrow
  • 1998: State of Schleswig-Holstein.
Honorary degrees

Throughout his reign and even thereafter Helmut Schmidt received 24 honorary degrees. They include degrees from the British universities Oxford and Cambridge, Paris Sorbonne, the American Harvard and Johns Hopkins University, the Belgian Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, and the Keio University in Japan.


Source: wikipedia.org

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