Ex-chancellor of West Germany dies at age 96

Mr Helmut Schmidt had reportedly caught an infection after surgery to remove a blood clot from his leg.
Mr Helmut Schmidt had reportedly caught an infection after surgery to remove a blood clot from his leg.

BERLIN • Former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who led the country for eight years at the height of the Cold War, has died at the age of 96, said his office.

Mr Schmidt led then-West Germany from 1974 to 1982 as it rose to become a global economic powerhouse, before he lost power to conservative Helmut Kohl.

A centrist from the Social Democratic Party, Mr Schmidt steered the country through a bloody wave of terror by far-left radicals from the Red Army Faction, preached free-market economics to his party and embodied cool-headed pragmatic politics in an Europe riven by the Iron Curtain.

The media reported that he caught an infection after having surgery to remove a blood clot from his leg about two months ago.

His doctor told German news agency dpa that the former leader had been receiving treatment at home after suffering a downturn in his health earlier this week. He died in his Hamburg home yesterday.

In recent years, Mr Schmidt, a chain smoker, was a frequent talk-show guest and he commanded more respect as an elder statesman than he did when he led the country.

During the euro zone debt crisis since 2009, he had criticised German Chancellor Angela Merkel for lacking financial savvy.

European Parliament head Martin Schulz, a Social Democrat, tweeted: "I am deeply saddened by Helmut Schmidt's death. He was an outstanding chancellor, his death is a loss for Germany and Europe."

Born in Hamburg in 1918, Mr Schmidt fought in World War II and was taken prisoner by the British.

He was married for 68 years to his childhood sweetheart Loki, who died in 2010.

They had a son who died in his first year and a daughter.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2015, with the headline 'Ex-chancellor of West Germany dies at age 96'. Print Edition | Subscribe