HELMUT SCHMIDT: Helmsman of Germany by Jonathan Carr

HELMUT SCHMIDT: Helmsman of Germany

Email this review


Helmut Schmidt, a strong and able administrator, a man of dedication and principle during his years as West Germany's chancellor, never crossed that charismatic line to become a world figure of towering importance. His life and work are not the stuff of which great (or even readable) biographies are made, as this effort proves. From a pedestrian childhood, through World War II service as a Wehrmacht officer, to his rise to the leadership of his party (the Social Democrats) and his country, he followed the standard course of any astute, aspiring politician (manager of transport administration in Hamburg, minister for domestic affairs in the same city, minister of finance, minister of defense, etc.). On the verge of the big job, he even discovered a politically suitable Jewish grandfather whose existence, to this day, seems unprovable; the birth certificate was incorrect (purposely) because of illegitimacy, thus hidden from probing Nazi eyes. The author, a former Bonn correspondent for the Financial Times, knows Schmidt and frequently interviewed him. His admiration for his subject colors the text of this hardly impartial work. Schmidt comes off as a gruff, hearty workaholic, a man whose strong dedication to a political philosophy of peace and a better Germany made him enough enemies to bring about his eventual downfall (a vote of no confidence in 1982). Schmidt may well be the paragon herein described, but there really was no period in his tenure as Chancellor when he could not have been replaced by another political leader with West Germany suffering no significant loss by the exchange. The author mires down in West German local politics, and also presupposes a thorough knowledge of European monetary policy and other economic esoterica. It makes for tough going. A useful reference but, like its subject, sans brio.

Pub Date: June 3rd, 1985
Publisher: St. Martin's