Helmut Schmidt, Former German Chancellor, Dies at 96 …

Helmut Schmidt, Chancellor of West Germany from 1974 to 1982, passed away today in Hamburg, Germany…

Helmut Schmidt, an elder statesman of German politics who led West Germany as it rose to become a global economic powerhouse, has died aged 96.

Schmidt’s doctor, Heiner Greten, told the German news agency dpa he died on Tuesday afternoon in Hamburg. He had been receiving treatment at home after his health deteriorated earlier this week.

The grandson of a docker became chancellor of West Germany in 1974 after the resignation of fellow Social Democrat Willy Brandt, triggered when a top aide to Brandt was unmasked as an East German agent. Schmidt served until 1982, when he lost power to conservative Helmut Kohl.

A centrist, Schmidt steered the country through a wave of homegrown terrorism, preached free-market economics to his party and embodied pragmatic politics in a Europe divided by the iron curtain.

Amid efforts to ward off a global recession, Schmidt was among the movers behind the first economic summit of leading industrial powers at Rambouillet, France, in 1975, which later turned into the annual Group of Seven meeting.

Assertive leadership

Schmidt’s chancellorship coincided with a tense period in the Cold War, including the Soviet Union’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. He went along the following year with the U.S.-led boycott of the Moscow Olympics, although he later said that it “brought nothing.”

Schmidt later said he had disputes with the United States under President Jimmy Carter over financial and defense issues at the time and concluded “that we Germans could not afford an extra conflict with America,” West Germany’s protector against the Soviets.

Amid efforts to ward off a global recession, Schmidt was among the movers behind the first economic summit of leading industrial powers at Rambouillet, France, in 1975, which later turned into the annual Group of Seven meeting.

He and then-French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing also played leading roles organizing the European Monetary System, which ultimately paved the way for the common European currency, the euro.