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"Can't shake the feeling the Schmidts have been involved in a lot of accidents"

Just “a few bruises”: Helmut Schmidt and his wife Loki didn’t suffer any worse.

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"Can't shake the feeling the Schmidts have been involved in a lot of accidents"

Just “a few bruises”: Helmut Schmidt and his wife Loki didn’t suffer any worse. Lucky for us, because the company car of Bonn's super minister for economics and finance, a Mercedes of the W108 series, was only good for cannibalizing after the crash.

On the evening of October 30, 1972, the almost 54-year-old social democrat and Loki attended a campaign date for the forthcoming federal elections. On the way back from the venue, a high school, to the Schmidts' house at Neubergerweg 80 on the far northern edge of Hamburg, a BMW 2800 suddenly gave way to the company car at the intersection of Halstenbeker and Heidlohstrasse.

Schmidt's driver saw the accident coming and braked sharply, but there was nothing he could do: the rear of the BMW caught the Mercedes on the front left fender. The ministerial car threw itself against a lamp post, a following car with bodyguards slammed into the rear of the Schmidt limousine.

The force was so great that Loki Schmidt was trapped in the back seat. Schmidt's only thought was, "How do I get my wife out of here?" Finally, one of the security guards managed to rip open the warped door. Nothing was wrong with the 53-year-old teacher, and her husband also got off lightly with a few bruises on his shoulder, leg and arms.

"Fortunately, both the Schmidts and their driver were able to leave the hospital the same evening after outpatient treatment," writes Karin Ellermann, archivist at the Helmut Schmidt Foundation in the former private home of the former Chancellor, who died in 2015, in the blog on her institution's website . The employees came up with the nice name “Schmidtletter” for the format, which is usually published every two weeks. The BMW driver was clearly to blame for the accident.

With the help of Schmidt's estate (several thousand file folders and around 400 photo albums), Ellermann has made the politician's automotive biography accessible - by the way, from a very unusual perspective: "As a pedestrian, I can't shake the feeling that the Schmidts not only owned quite a few private cars - 14 different ones can be proven - owned, but also in many accidents - seven self-inflicted and four by third parties are proven - involved. "

The first car of the young Schmidt family (they married in 1942 and their daughter Susanne was born in 1947) was a used VW. In 1953 they resold the Beetle for 1,500 marks in order to buy a Mercedes 170 D (also used, of course) for at least 7,000 marks - a model that had been in production since 1937 and continued until 1952.

Apparently Schmidt, who probably got his driver's license in the Wehrmacht, had a rather robust driving style. In any case, in the same year it caused a collision with an Opel Olympia-Rekord north of the Outer Alster – it had taken away its right of way. Schmidt injures himself; with bruises, cuts on his face and a bruise he had to take sick leave for two days.

"It was not the only self-inflicted car accident that is handed down in Helmut Schmidt's estate," writes Karin Ellermann: "In the years from 1952 to 1968, seven traffic offenses are documented that can be traced back to his misconduct. Only once was it illegal parking.” Helmut was the only driver in the family until 1968, when Loki passed the driving test.

As his career progressed (after four years as Hamburg's police and interior senator, Schmidt became chairman of the SPD parliamentary group in the Bundestag in 1966) he was entitled to a company car. But that didn't mean he stopped driving himself. WELT reported in 1971 that the current defense minister himself took a seat in the driver's seat out of "rather social impulses" "when he drove his service Mercedes down from the Hardthöhe himself during late trips, such as at a meeting in the press club". According to the report, Schmidt "didn't want to spoil his driver's end of the day".

That was all over when Schmidt became Chancellor in May 1974 as the successor to Willy Brandt: From then on he was almost always driven, and he was always accompanied by bodyguards, which was unavoidable given the terror of the left-wing extremist RAF. Privately, he switched to the water and in 1977 passed the exam for sailing license A (inland). Even after the end of his term of office, when Schmidt increasingly became the "Chancellor of the hearts" of many Germans, he kept his company car and driver.

Like the six other public memorial foundations for politicians (not to be confused with the party-affiliated foundations of the CDU and SPD, some of which have very similar names), the Helmut Schmidt Foundation has the task of commemorating the respective namesake as a formative figure in German history. Some of these publicly financed institutions preserve the estate of the respective person, such as Otto von Bismarck, and sometimes the politician's living space, which has been preserved true to the original (such as with Friedrich Ebert, Theodor Heuss and in a reconstructed form with Willy Brandt). In the case of Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Schmidt, both come together: Here, the legacy is made accessible in functional buildings near the fully preserved last residences, which can also be visited as authentic museums.

It is currently still unclear how the youngest corresponding institution, the Helmut Kohl Foundation, will develop further: It was only constituted on September 21, 2021 and currently does not have the estate, which is still in Kohl's private house in Oggersheim.

In the case of Schmidt, this problem does not exist. Although the estate formally belongs to a private foundation that bears the name of Helmut and Loki Schmidt, it works closely with the state-run Helmut Schmidt Foundation. That is certainly exemplary.

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