Wednesday 11 November 2015 6:57 am

Helmut Schmidt: As Germany loses a historic figure, the UK has lost the most Anglo-Saxon of all Chancellors at a crucial time for Brexit


Markus C. Kerber is professor of public finance and political economy at the Technical University of Berlin

Markus C. Kerber is professor of public finance and political economy at the Technical University of Berlin

The death of Helmut Schmidt is a profound moment for all post-war Germans.

More than any other German Chancellor, Schmidt was the incarnation of a deep commitment to his nation as a part of the European Community, but also as a strong member of the Atlantic alliance.

As an inveterate workaholic, Schmidt was used to burning the candle at both ends in the service of his country. A reserve army officer, he always retained something of the armed services culture. As a matter of principle, he resisted any temptation to negotiate with the Red Army faction in the 'German Autumn' of terrorism in the 1970s. 


A Social Democrat politician, he was elected to the office of Chancellor in 1974, and was widely appreciated by a moderately right wing public. When left-wing and ecologically-minded pacifists later attempted to to trap Germany into a neutralist position, he was able to resist and gain the upper hand.

Although Schmidt was able to buck that particular trend, he finally accepted political defeat a few years later in 1982. Relentless however in his determination to speak his mind, he continued to articulate to the German public, the trade-off between the benefits of an industrialised society and the dream of an idyllic ecological paradise.

After leaving office as Chancellor, Schmidt was a strong supporter of European Monetary Union and the European Central Bank. In his later years, whether as a result of accumulated wisdom, or under the influence of his journalist colleagues at the liberal 'Die Zeit', he supported a number of fashionable EU political causes. These included the financial bailing out of Greece, Portugal and Ireland, and tolerance towards Putin's Russia.

Not only does Germany now lose a historic figure, but the UK has also lost the most Anglo-Saxon of all Gerrman Chancellors.

It will now lose the opportunity to hear Schmidt's voice again, in a echo of his Blackpool appeal to his comrades in the left-lurching Labour party in 1980, to stay in Europe.

Schmidt would undoubtedly have said the same thing to his Tory colleagues in late 2015.

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