On Tuesday evening, at the Federal Chancellery, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that like many other people in Germany she was very sad to hear of the death of Helmut Schmidt. She expressed her deepest sympathy for his partner and his daughter.
"In 1962, when disaster threatened his beloved home city, Helmut Schmidt’s fame spread beyond his native Hamburg. During the dramatic flood that hit the city, he acted resolutely and improvised with great skill in his capacity as Senator for Internal Affairs," said Angela Merkel.
She still remembers distinctly how she and her parents followed reports from Hamburg on the radio in their home in East Germany, because "we were desperately worried about our grandmother and aunt in Hamburg". Angela Merkel said that she trusted Helmut Schmidt to bring the situation under control. "That is my first very vivid, very personal memory of Helmut Schmidt."
From that time on the Germans appreciated the "straight-talking Hanseatic politician with natural authority". "When we look back today, we can see that the respect and esteem we had for our former Chancellor developed into deep affection over the decades," declared Angela Merkel.
"We were impressed by his personal modesty and his dedication to duty. Helmut Schmidt was a political institution in the Federal Republic of Germany. I always saw him as an authority – as somebody whose advice and whose judgement meant a lot to me," said the Chancellor.
She last saw him a good year ago at his Hamburg home. "I will never forget the meeting," said Angela Merkel.
"We owe a lot to Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. His resoluteness helped up withstand the tribulations of international and German terrorism in the nineteen seventies." Some of the important ideas that Helmut Schmidt brought to international politics continue to affect us today, she added.
Angela Merkel gave the example of Helmut Schmidt’s contributions to the debate over NATO’s decision to adopt a "double-track" approach, his work to lay the foundations for a European monetary system and his tireless commitment to greater European integration. "This is a call that is as valid today as it was back then," said Angela Merkel. Helmut Schmidt is also one of the instigators of summit diplomacy. Exactly forty years ago, he co-hosted the first global economic summit with the French President Giscard d’Estaing.
"I would like to express my deep respect for the achievements of Helmut Schmidt, his achievements in the course of his long life as a Hamburg politician, as a minister in various governments, as Chancellor and latterly as an independent spirit and publicist," said Angela Merkel. "He rendered outstanding service to our country, and we will never forget that," she concluded her tribute.
Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and SPD Chair Sigmar Gabriel praised the late former Chancellor as a great statesman. "We have lost a genuinely great patriot, a great European and a great social democrat," he said.
The cohesion of Europe was a matter very close to Helmut Schmidt’s heart. "I believe that Europe is his legacy." Helmut Schmidt warned us that nothing is more important than our friendship with France, "that Germany must not go too far in terms of leadership, and that we have a responsibility to keep Europe together," said Sigmar Gabriel.
Social democrats are mourning the loss of an individual who will remain unforgotten well beyond the confines of the party, an individual whose confidence, realism and energy "shaped our country", declared the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs. Helmut Schmidt will "be remembered by generations of Germans as one of our country’s most important statesmen".
Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was also deeply moved by the death of the former Chancellor. "We Germans have lost a father figure," he said. Helmut Schmidt had a profound impact on us and our country. Generations of people – including me – sought and valued his wisdom and authority up until the end of his blessedly long life."
"Helmut Schmidt was not only Chancellor of the Germans – he was also a mentor to them," continued Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Helmut Schmidt was "a Chancellor of progress and a pioneer of globalisation. As a native of the Hanseatic City of Hamburg, insular thinking was absolutely abhorrent to him." He always saw Germany as part of Europe and Europe as a player on the world stage. "We mourn the loss of a German democrat, a European pioneer and a global thinker."