Helmut Schmidt (23 December 1918 – 10 November 2015)
Two things I like to share with Helmut Schmidt. We both have huge admiration for Henry Kissinger, who became his best friend in the United States and taught him that a balance of power is eminent to preserve peace. Secondly the push for Nato’s Two Track Decision from December 12, 1979, when NATO decided to deploy Pershing 2 missiles and cruise missiles in Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy to counter the Russian SS 20 missiles. During the hight of the détente the Russians started to modernize their nuclear arsenal in Europe. In May 1979 I added the zero option with the Dattelner Appeal, declaring that if Russia destroyed all of its SS 20 missiles, NATO would join in. This was welcomed by the German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and was added to the INF treaty of 1987 and made this dream reality.
To stick with the belief of his close friend Henry Kissinger not giving in to the so-called “peace movement”, Helmut Schmidt pushed through the missiles deployment in Germany, seeing it as the most reasonable option. He became a true statesman in the view of Henry Kissinger and the words of my mentor Dr. Fritz Kraemer, stating that Schmidt sacrificed his career for his firm belief, his world vision.
Helmut Schmidt (23 December 1918 – 10 November 2015), just as my father, was a reserve officer in World War Two. This young generation fought for Germany, yet in fact were more so forced to fight for a tyrant, a mass murderer and the worst destroyer of their beloved “Heimat”, their home.
This tragic experience firmly formed the whole generation, also young Helmut Schmidt. Never again should this be able to happen. Never again should the young generation turn a blind eye towards tyranny. A new generation engaged for democracy and peace, by building up the fatherland from scratch. But as well to defend the new freedom against the communist threat from the East.
The young man from Hamburg decided to play his part in re-building the Heimat, by joining the Social Democratic Party in his home town. As a young socialist he was standing against re-armament of Germany and the build up of the Bundeswehr in 1955. After initially starting his political career in 1952, under Karl Schiller in the Hamburg Senate, he was a senior figure in the Hamburg State Ministry for Economy and Transport and was elected into the German Bundestag in 1953.
He joined the cabinet of Chancellor Brandt (1969-74) as defence minister and later became the finance minister. When Brandt had to step down due to the espionage scandal, he emerged as the new Chancellor after the elections in 1974. And became one of the most vital politicians of his time. He formed another Social-Liberal coalition, successfully teaming up with his Foreign Secretary Genscher from the Liberal Party.
Schmidt’s three main successes were fulfilling these three tasks: Neutralizing the SS 20 being pointed at Germany. Getting East Germany’s leader Erich Honecker on track for a new “Ostpolitik”. Containing the leftist Red Army Fraction (RAF) in the 1970’s. The terrorist group killed 34 people in Germany during this decade. Only after the reunification it emerged that they had been financed and equipped by the East German government, in order to destabilize West Germany. For me it is obvious that the killing list was chosen and signed off by Honecker and Mielke themselves. They were clearly aiming for the echelon below the highest level, by not attacking the top politicians like Schmidt, Strauss or Genscher.
Probably his darkest and most fearful moment in power was when on October 13, 1977 Palestinian terrorists kidnapped a Lufthansa airplane in order to get the top terrorists Ulrike Meinhof and Andreas Baader (RAF) released. He kept a staunch policy on not giving in and ordered the newly formed GSG-9 anti-terror group to storm the plane in Mogadishu, Somalia, and free the hostages. He had written his resignation letter already, in case the mission had failed. With luck and expert preparation they succeeded and it was a triumph with tears and joy.
Yet the pacifistic movement grew stronger and larger in West Germany, culminating in his own party, the SPD losing trust in their realistic chancellor. The oppositional Christian Democrats started a motion of no confidence supported by his coalition partner the Liberals in October 1982. CDU chairman Helmut Kohl was elected by the Bundestag as new chancellor and won the following elections in March 1983. Schmidt lost his office.
Often seen as being arrogant and stiff while smoking his beloved menthol cigarettes, he became even more isolated and frustrated with his party, the SPD.
Later they warmed up to him again and he relived a huge wave of appreciation within the party, yes, he even became something like the parties grandfather.
As the years passed, he became the hidden president, a real moral institution who would comment and speak out in an honest fashion on every current event that the world would be facing.
“Schmidt-Schnauze” (Big mouthed Schmidt) became the leading Elder Statesman of Germany.
Even the Social Democrats and the Liberal party, who kicked him so brutally out of office will miss him now.
Thank you Helmut Schmidt! You were a brave Steuermann of the large German ship in dangerous and misty waters.
Your visions and wisdoms in politics will give the next generations good guide lines for the future.
German chancellor Helmut Schmidt had a complicated relationship with US President Jimmy Carter (In office 1977-81), nevertheless both became the fathers of the NATO Two Track Decision in 1979.