German chancellor Helmut Schmidt dies age 96

Helmut Schmidt, the chancellor who guided West Germany through economic turbulence and Cold War tensions, stood firm against a wave of homegrown terrorism and became a respected elder statesman, has died. He was 96.
German chancellor Helmut Schmidt dies age 96

Schmidt died at his house in Hamburg, according to German weekly Die Zeit, of which Schmidt was a co-publisher.

“We have lost a sharp-witted adviser, a trusted companion and a good friend,” Die Zeit said in a statement.

“Until recently he contributed to the editorial team with his analyses, his commentaries and his interviews about current affairs.”

Schmidt’s friend and doctor Heiner Greten told Bild the former chancellor died with partner Ruth Loah and daughter Susanne at home with him.

“He died the way he wanted: In his bed at home and fully without pain,” Greten said.

Schmidt, a centre-left Social Democrat, led West Germany from 1974 to 1982.

He was elected chancellor by lawmakers in May 1974 after the resignation of fellow Social Democrat Willy Brandt, triggered when a top aide to Brandt was unmasked as an East German agent.

Sigmar Gabriel, chairman of the Social Democrats and Germany’s vice chancellor, recalled Schmidt delivering his last big speech at an SPD party convention in 2011.

Gabriel said he reminded party members that Germany has “a responsibility to hold Europe together”.

“I think that in these days and weeks, where some are disappointed by the developments in Europe, these words will stay in our memory,” he told reporters at the SPD’s Parliamentary offices.

“He was someone who, I believe, will remain for generations of Germans one of the most significantstatesmen of our country.”

Schmidt brought a sometimes abrasive self-confidence and his experience as West Germany’s defence, finance, and economy ministers to the job, which he took during the downturn that followed the 1973 oil crisis.

His chancellorship coincided with a tense period in the Cold War, including the Soviet Union’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan.

He went along the following year with the US-led boycott of the Moscow Olympics, although he later said that it “brought nothing”.

French president François Hollande said:“It’s a great European whose life has just ended.”

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