From The Straits Times Archives: Helmut Schmidt and his ties with Singapore

Then West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (left) arriving in Singapore for a two-day visit in 1978. He was greeted by Mr Lee Kuan Yew (centre) and his wife Mrs Lee.
Then West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (left) arriving in Singapore for a two-day visit in 1978. He was greeted by Mr Lee Kuan Yew (centre) and his wife Mrs Lee.PHOTO: ST FILE

Mr Helmut Schmidt, the West German chancellor from 1974 to 1982 died on Tuesday (Nov 10) at the age of 96. Leaders from Europe have hailed him as an architect of international cooperation and post-war European integration who played an instrumental role in shaping modern Europe since the cold war.

Mr Schmidt held strong ties with Singapore, paying official visits here with his wife, Hannelore "Loki" Schmidt during the 1970s and 1980s. He was most notably a very close friend to founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, whom he would refer to as "Harry Lee".

We look through The Straits Times archives for some key events between the two that have spanned decades.

‘Old friends’ reminisce during book interview

Former West German leader Helmut Schmidt interviewed Singapore's former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew for a book he was writing. PHOTO: ST FILE

Former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew met his one-time West German counterpart Helmut Schmidt at the Shangri-La Hotel on May 6, 2012.

Mr Schmidt was in Singapore to tap Mr Lee’s views on international affairs for a book that he was writing. The interview lasted three hours, and two more interviews of similar length were scheduled over the next two days.

Mr Lee’s office described the closed-door meeting as one between “old friends”, who reminisced about the past before discussing the present situation in the international arena.



Helmut Schmidt delivers the Singapore Lecture on the Soviet Union

West German Chancellor, Mr Helmut Schmidt, 
delivering the fourth Singapore Lecture on The Soviet Union - Challenges and Responses 
as Seen from The European Point of View. PHOTO: ST FILE

During his four-day visit to Singapore in November 1983, Mr Schmidt conducted the 4th Singapore lecture on the topic: The Soviet Union - Challenges and Responses, As Seen From the European Point of View.

In his lecture, Mr Schmidt told the audience that to understand the Soviet Union, one should study Russian history.


4 powerful friends, sharing friendships that lasted decades

Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew (left) discussing world economic problems with former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (centre) and former American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in Japan in 1983. PHOTO: ST FILE

Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Mr  Helmut Schmidt were also part of a four-member "power group", the other two individuals being then United States Secretary of State George Schultz and former United States secretary of state Henry Kissinger.

The four of them shared a friendship that lasted more than 40 years.

The bond between Mr Schmidt and Mr Lee was exceptionally close. Before their meeting in March 2012, Mr Schmidt asked to meet Mr Lee for the last time. Mr Schmidt had apparently been looking forward to the trip for the longest time and could not wait to see Mr Lee, or "Harry" as he would call him.

At age 93, braving the thrombosis he was suffering from and a 15-hour plane ride, Mr Schmidt flew to Singapore from Hamburg to meet his dear friend.


Helmut Schmidt's two-day visit to Singapore in 1978

Then West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (left) and Mrs Schmidt attended a dinner hosted by Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew (right) at the Istana in 1978. PHOTO: ST FILE

In 1978, then West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt arrived in Singapore on a two-day visit  pledging to improve economic ties with Singapore and to play his part in fighting for a free global economic order.

His visit had added significance as it came one month before the EEC-Asean ministerial meeting which took place under the chairmanship of the German foreign minister. Mr Schmidt used the opportunity to get a feel of the texture of the society that was woven in Singapore.


Helmut Schmidt's wife, Hannelore, gets an orchid named after her

Mrs Hannelore Schmidt (right), wife of West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, had a new orchid hybrid named after her in 1978. PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore paid tribute to Mr Helmut Schmidt's wife, Mrs Hannelore "Loki" Schmidt, by naming an orchid hybrid after her.

Mrs Schmidt, who is a botanist and nature lover, was thrilled when she was presented the plant at the Singapore Botanic Gardens in 1978.