Curriculum vitae



Helmut Schmidt born 23 December 1918 in Hamburg.


  • School leaving examination at Lichtwarkschule Hamburg, enlistment in Reich Labour Service (Reichsarbeitsdienst)
  • Called up for two years of military service

1939 –


As an air force serviceman, participation inter alia in invasion of Soviet Union, otherwise mostly postings within the home command, responsible for training at Reich Air Ministry (with final rank of Reserve Lieutenant)



Marriage to Hannelore (Loki) Glaser in Hamburg (1944: son Walter born, but dies before his first birthday; 1947: daughter Susanne born) 


  • Released from British captivity 
  • Begins studying economics and political science in winter semester at University of Hamburg (graduated 1949)

1946 –



  • Joins Social-Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) (1946)
  • Takes over chairmanship of German Socialist Student League (SDS)

1949 –


Desk officer, later department head in Ministry for Economics and Transport in Hamburg under Senator (and later Federal Economics and Finance Minister) Karl Schiller 

1953 –



  • Member of German Bundestag, elected to SPD Federal Executive (1958)
  • Member of several committees (incl. Transport, Economics, European Security)

1961 –


  •  After the SPD loses the federal election in 1961, returns to Hamburg. Initially Police Senator, later Home Affairs Senator
  • Flooding in Hamburg: When he organizes the rescue from flooding of thousands of people in Hamburg in February 1962, Helmut Schmidt establishes his reputation as a crisis manager



Return to Bonn as Member of the Bundestag; prospective minister in the government team of SPD candidate for chancellor, Willy Brandt, but the SPD loses the election again

1966 –


  • Following the premature end of the CDU-CSU-FDP government, formation of the first grand coalition between CDU and SPD 
  • Takes over chairmanship of the SPD parliamentary party from the seriously ill Fritz Erler (1966/1967)

1968 –



Deputy Chairman of the SPD

1969 –


  • Sworn in in October as Defence Minister in Willy Brandt’s first SPD-FDP cabinet
  • Publishes defence policy paper “Strategie des Gleichgewichts” (Strategy of Balance) (1969)

1972 –


Finance Minister in Willy Brandt’s second cabinet (temporarily also covering the Minister for Economics’ brief)

1974 –



  • Elected fifth Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (taking over following the resignation of Willy Brandt) (16 May 1974)

Helmut Schmidt – government statement | part 1 | mp3 | (c) Deutscher Bundestag
Helmut Schmidt – government statement | part 2 | mp3 | (c) Deutscher Bundestag

The first pages of the original speech with Schmidt’s handwritten annotations | PDF | (c) HSA

Bulletin of the new federal government

SPD leaflet

1976 –



  • 3 October 1976: Confirmed as Chancellor in federal election against CDU challenger Helmut Kohl
  • Series of major demonstrations and protests in Germany against nuclear power plants and installations n Germany (Brokdorf, Gorleben, etc.); federal government continues to support nuclear power
  • Visit to Auschwitz/Poland (1977); Helmut Schmidt calls it one of his most difficult journeys
  • During “German Autumn” (1977) and beyond maintains a decisive and consistent position towards Red Army Faction (RAF) terrorists 
  • In the same year gives highly regarded speech at International Institute for Strategic Studies in London; draft concept for establishing a strategic balance of atomic weapons in Europe

1978 –



  • Visit by Soviet president and party leader Leonid Brezhnev, including to Helmut and Loki Schmidt’s house in Langenhorn, Hamburg (1978); talks include nuclear disarmament
  • French, British, German and US heads of government come to a preliminary agreement on the NATO twin-track policy on the Pacific island of Guadeloupe (January 1979, formal resolution by NATO member states on 12 December of that year)
  • Giscard d’Estaing and Helmut Schmidt jointly implement the newly established European Monetary System (EMS)  (comes into force 1979) thus laying the foundations for the later introduction of the euro
  • Publishes “Als Christ in der politischen Entscheidung” (Political decision-making as a Christian) (1976) and “Der Kurs heißt Frieden” (Setting the course for peace) (1979)

1980 –



  • Disarmament talks with the Soviet Communist Party leadership in Moscow and Bonn
  • 5 October 1980: Helmut Schmidt wins federal election against Franz Josef Strauß (CSU) and starts his second term on 5 November 1980
  • Talks with GDR head of state and party leader Erich Honecker (continuing policy of “change through rapprochement”)
  • Start of a series of major peace demonstrations against nuclear re-armament in Germany (till mid-1980s). Helmut Schmidt maintains his support for the NATO twin-track policy in the face of strong public and party opposition 




1983 –




1993 –



  • Continuation of his prolific publishing activity (“Menschen und Mächte” [People and power], “Allgemeine Erklärung der Menschenpflichten” [Universal declaration of human duties], “Außer Dienst” [Out of office] to name but a few); many of his around 50 publications become best-sellers; hundreds of contributions to books, newspapers and magazines also published

  • Extensive international lecture tours; continued consultations on overcoming international problems and crises with politicians all over the world; recipient of numerous prizes, honorary doctorates, awards and honorary citizenships


    Helmut Schmidt was an outstanding figure of his time. His life and work were documented in countless photographs. You can find a selection here.