Helmut Schmidt

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Helmut Schmidt in 1976

Helmut Heinrich Waldemar Schmidt (23 December 1918 – 10 November 2015) was a German politician and member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), who served as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) from 1974 to 1982.


  • “Anyone who votes for Die Grünen will be blaming themselves bitterly later on.” („Wer die Grünen wählt, der wird sich später mal bitterste Vorwürfe machen.“) — 1980, with regard to the formation of the political party Die Grünen[1]
  • Immigration from foreign civilizations creates more problems than it can bring us in terms of positive factors on the labor market. Immigration from related civilizations, for example from Poland, is problem-free. From the Czech Republic, for example, is no problem. From Austria, for example, is no problem. From Italy is no problem. It starts with somewhat more eastern regions. Immigration from Anatolia, for example, is not entirely problem-free. Immigration from Afghanistan causes considerable problems. Immigration from Kazakhstan causes problems. These are other civilizations. Not because of their different genes, not because of their different ancestry, but because of the way they were brought up as infants, as toddlers, as schoolchildren, as children in the family.
  • If you look closely, you'll see that the political journalists actually more belong to the political class and less to journalism.
  • One is left, the other is right. But comparable populists are Lafontaine and Le Pen already.
  • Of course, nuclear power has its risks. But there is no power and nothing in the world without risks, not even love.
  • [Intelligence services] are poor pigs suffering from two mental illnesses: The one disease is because they never get public recognition for what they actually do. This is inevitable, as they have to work in secret. This deformes the soul. The other disease bases on the fact that they have the tendency to believe they understood the national interests of their own country much better than their own government. This latter disease is the reason that I do not trust them.
  • The rule of law does not have to win, it does not have to lose, but it has to exist!
  • Nothing is more important than pastoral care for people in need. [...] For me, nothing is less important than theology.
  • If we continue on for decades as before, then I have to be pessimistic about our country.
    • in conversation with the authors of the series of documentaries "Der Fall Deutschland", statcion Phoenix, 12. February 2006, phoenix.de
  • With a democratic society, the concept of multiculturalism is difficult to reconcile. Maybe in a very long term. But if you ask, where multicultural societies have so far worked, you can get very quickly to the conclusion that they only work there peacefully where there is a strong authoritarian state there. So, it was a mistake that we picked up at the beginning of the 60's guest workers from foreign cultures into the country. There is still no multicultural society [in the USA] either, but perhaps one day there will be. Singapore is a good example, but the cultures living there all speak English and the political system is based on authority.
  • It is an irony of history that the public sector union, my union, in which I am a member for over 50 years, that imagines that the public service should be the pacemaker in the wage increase. One must be crazy.
    • speech "The catch-up process of the East has gone to end in 1996 - What to do?" at the 10. May 2004 for the "Erfurt Dialogues", thueringen.de
  • What troubles me is that we will see in Germany no approximation of the East German income to the West German income anymore, because productivity stays so far behind.
    • speech "The catch-up process of the East has gone to end in 1996 - What to do?" at the 10. May 2004 for the "Erfurt Dialogues", thueringen.de
  • The multicultural society is an illusion of intellectuals.
  • The snail's pace is the normal pace of any democracy.
    • DIE ZEIT, 19. Oktober 2003, zeit.de
  • Do we want also to be world champion in moaning?
    • in "Because Germany has to change" DIE ZEIT 22/2003 22. Mai 2003
  • In the basic questions, one have to be naive. And I think that the problems of the world and of humanity cannot be solved without idealism. However, I also believe that one should be realistic and pragmatic at the same time.
  • Today, the most important is to learn to understand other people. And not only their music, but also their philosophy, their attitude, their behavior. Only then will nations can get along with each other.
  • It is true that the politician at the moment of his actions or if he explains his actions and justifies them cannot provide at the same time also great philosophy. But if he acts without philosophical and ethical foundations, he is in danger of making mistakes. He is in danger to sink into opportunism. He is even in danger of being a charlatan.
  • The more direct decisions by all the people, all the more ungovernable is the country!
  • I think that the idea that a modern society would be able to establish itself as a multicultural society, with as many cultural groups as possible is absurd. One cannot make out of Germany with at least a thousand years of history since Otto I subsequently make a crucible.
  • Whoever has visions should go to the doctor.
  • It seems to me that the German people can - pointedly - tolerate 5 percent price increase better than 5 percent unemployment.
    • Interview with Helmut Schmidt on the 27. July 1972 in Bonn, partly printed in the Süddeutsche Zeitung of 28. July 1972 (nr. 171), p. 8
  • Science and future, that is a contradiction.
    • "Politics commemorates former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt" from the Kleine Zeitung

Quotations referring to Helmut Schmidt

  • Did it have to come to this? The paradox is that when Europe was less united, it was in many ways more independent. The leaders who ruled in the early stages of integration had all been formed in a world before the global hegemony of the United States, when the major European states were themselves imperial powers, whose foreign policies were self-determined. These were people who had lived through the disasters of the Second World War, but were not crushed by them. This was true not just of a figure like De Gaulle, but of Adenauer and Mollet, of Eden and Heath, all of whom were quite prepared to ignore or defy America if their ambitions demanded it. Monnet, who did not accept their national assumptions, and never clashed with the US, still shared their sense of a future in which Europeans could settle their own affairs, in another fashion. Down into the 1970s, something of this spirit lived on even in Giscard and Schmidt, as Carter discovered. But with the neo-liberal turn of the 1980s, and the arrival in power in the 1990s of a postwar generation, it faded. The new economic doctrines cast doubt on the state as a political agent, and the new leaders had never known anything except the Pax Americana. The traditional springs of autonomy were gone.
    • Perry Anderson, "Depicting Europe", London Review of Books (20 September 2007)
  • Had Brandt not taken the lead in ‘normalisation’, other powers would probably have done so. At the same time, West German governmental and, to some degree, public complicity in the East German regime increased alongside engagement with it. This complicity was displayed both by Brandt’s SPD successor, Helmut Schmidt, the Chancellor from 1974 to 1982, and by the latter’s CDU replacement from 1982, Helmut Kohl. Complicity, however, may be an inappropriate as well as harsh judgment, as little would have been achieved by upholding the Hallstein Doctrine and continuing to refuse to enter into dialogue with East Germany. Moreover, the change in policy brought real relief in the form of visiting rights and family reunifications, not to mention buying ‘regime opponents’ out of jail.
  • The era of Schmidt and of his East German counterpart, Erich Honecker, Party Chief from 1971 and Chairman of the Council of State from 1976 to 1989, led to a sober, measured rapprochement and a resolution of relations between the two states. The West Germans sought to foster a German-German community of responsibility against the background of a reduction in international tension. Uneasiness in the early 1980s about the deployment of intermediate-range nuclear missiles in West Germany was a product of these attitudes. Nevertheless, as part of this community of responsibility, concern within West Germany about the plight of East Germans, let alone support for reunification, markedly declined, reflecting the extent to which the Germans had also been major players in creating the reality of two separate nations. There was no real West German support for the citizens’ rights movements in East Germany. Instead, stabilisation was more significant as a goal. The easing of relations thus entailed an acceptance of the governing system in Eastern Europe, for example of the suppression of the Czech Spring in 1968. East Germany, recognised for the first time as a state by much of the world in 1973, was admitted to the United Nations and other international bodies.
  • Helmut Schmidt continues to speak of a sense of duty, predictability, feasibility, firmness [...] These are secondary virtues. Simply put precise:.. So you can also run a concentration camp with them.
    • Oskar Lafontaine on 15. July 1982 in STERN to the discussion about the NATO Double-Track Decision (here: shortend citation of BILD)
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  1. Schmidt, Helmut (1980). Own words, sound on tape, from 07:41 to 07:48 (in de) (MP3). WDR ZeitZeichen.