"We will miss Helmut Schmidt"

State funeral ceremony for the former Chancellor "We will miss Helmut Schmidt"

Chancellor Angela Merkel has praised Helmut Schmidt as a great statesman and an "authority" that transcends party lines and generations. His death leaves a gap, she said. She ended her address at the state funeral with the words, "Helmut Schmidt, we will miss you."

Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the state funeral for former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.

I pay my respects to an exceptional personality, says Chancellor

Photo: Bundesregierung/Kugler

The religious part of the official state funeral was opened by Alexander Röder, chief minister at St. Michael’s Church in Hamburg, with a service including a sermon. The death of this great statesman has moved many people, he said. It is as though a good friend has left us. For the people, Helmut Schmidt was an authority and an example to follow. Alexander Röder pointed to the huge responsibility that Helmut Schmidt took on during his life.

He was followed by Hamburg’s current First Mayor Olaf Scholz, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Chancellor Angela Merkel all of whom spoke movingly.

The official funeral ceremony in Hamburg’s St Michael’s Church was attended by Helmut Schmidt’s daughter Susanne and his partner Ruth Loah, along with about 1,800 guests from inside and outside Germany, including Federal President Joachim Gauck, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, a longstanding personal friend of Helmut Schmidt, as was Henry Kissinger.

Helmut Schmidt has left his mark

Angela Merkel said that Helmut Schmidt has left his own indelible mark. His death appears somehow unreal. Even in advanced years he had a huge presence. "We are all moved by his death. He was an authority who transcended party lines and generations," said the Chancellor. There is a good reason why he was held in such high esteem: in all his political duties he accepted his responsibility, and this brought him trust.

Angela Merkel, herself born in Hamburg, recalled how she followed Helmut Schmidt’s decisive handling of the dreadful flood that hit Hamburg in 1962 from her home in East Germany.

With a view to the terrorism perpetrated by the Red Army Faction in Germany, Angela Merkel said, that when Helmut Schmidt was convinced that he was doing the right thing, he just did it. "He was willing to pay the highest price himself." He rejected every form of blind ideology, stressed Angela Merkel. Helmut Schmidt was a passionate proponent of democracy, and that also applied to the European Union. Angela Merkel closed with the simple words, "Helmut Schmidt, we will miss you."

A man of courage and vision

Olaf Scholz stressed that it is not only Hamburg that is mourning, but the whole of Germany and indeed the whole world. Rarely has a politician enjoyed so much trust, he said. Helmut Schmidt always accepted the responsibility for his actions, and took his lead from Kant’s categorical imperative when it came to making difficult decisions. His political legacy will remain a central point of reference for political life.

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said that Helmut Schmidt’s vision and his courage were his strengths. He embodied these character traits like no other. He always took his own conscience as his absolute authority. He travelled the world and explained to us the ways of the world. He was a sort of global conscience. Henry Kissinger ended his extremely personal speech, saying "Helmut will remain with us – a great man and a good man."

Funeral procession through Hamburg

After the funeral service a Bundeswehr guard of honour paid a final tribute to Helmut Schmidt. His coffin was then driven through the streets of Hamburg in a funeral procession to Ohlsdorf Cemetery.

Helmut Schmidt died on 10 November at the age of 96 at home in his native city of Hamburg. He was Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1974 to 1982.

What is a state memorial service or funeral?
State memorial services and state funerals are rare state ceremonies. They are an expression of the greatest honour that can be bestowed by the Federal Republic of Germany on public figures who have rendered outstanding service to the German people. In the presence of the highest-ranking representatives of the constitutional organs of the Federal Republic of Germany, of family members, colleagues and friends, as well as leading personalities from the realms of politics, religion, industry and culture, tribute is paid to the services rendered by the deceased. High-ranking guests and representatives from inside and outside Germany are invited to the state memorial service or funeral.