The home of Helmut and Loki Schmidt should be familiar to many baby boomers – even if they have never been there. A tour.
It is the modest prosperity of the sixties and seventies of the old Federal Republic that has spread over the years in this semi-detached house in Hamburg-Langenhorn: a hodgepodge of discoveries of plump – and long – lives, underlaid with Persian carpets on easy-care tile floors behind red brick.
Or about it with Peer Steinbruck to say, who has been chairman of the Chancellor Helmut Schmidt Foundation, established in 2016, since January 2017: “The countless books, the art on the walls, the grand piano in the hall, but above all the thousands of small memorabilia with a recognizable penchant for trinkets gave the house something alive. No lacquered interior, but also no stuffed stuff. “
The home of Helmut and Loki Schmidt looks familiar to many baby boomers, even if they have never been there. Erected by the union’s own housing association Neue Heimat and moved in shortly before Christmas Eve 1961, people were very proud of such a row (-duplex) house. Usually a period of makeshift accommodation after the war and the loss of a house or apartment due to the bombing came to an end with the move.
122 square meters of living space – that’s where it started
From this time, however, we still knew what could become important and what should not be forgotten: Many soldiers returned from prisoner-of-war captivity with wood-carved objects with which they had passed the time. Inexperienced hands, for example, had to show letter openers, Helmut Schmidt brought it to a game of pin chess (still complete today). It is perhaps 15 by 15 centimeters in size; Schmidt had colored the black fields with substitute coffee as a British prisoner of war in Belgium. It goes without saying that there was always a functioning and, above all, impact-resistant flashlight in such households. A book that has just been published and published by the Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt Foundation provides these and other insights.
It comes at the right time. The Chancellor’s row house cannot be viewed due to the pandemic; Even without Covid-19, it would be difficult to get a place in one of the few small groups that passed the home of the Schmidts be guided.
According to an extract from the land register, the property originally had 122 square meters of living space; the property was 615 square meters. Helmut Schmidt liked to flirt with the – compared to the villas on the Alster – modest property. Over the decades, the Schmidts were able to expand both the house and the garden through additions and acquisitions. Today the house is measured at 422 square meters and the property at 1905 square meters.
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In 1989 Helmut Loki had a greenhouse built
The excellent texts by the team of authors from the Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt Foundation, with many photographs by Michael Zapf, offer a visual tour of a house in which the private and the public, the human and the political, are inextricably mixed. How else could it be? Helmut Schmidt’s stylization of this home as a completely normal, bourgeois home, which was occasionally the stage for world politics on state visits, is reflected in the volume in words and images. Areas such as the bedroom and basement as well as the family bathroom are rightly excluded.
You really only show something like that to very good friends when it’s tidy. But even without these insights, a journey through time and German history begins when leafing through. The interior shots of the living room, dominated by the paneling and book walls, are reminiscent of the educated middle class.
Elsewhere, the seventies emerge from oblivion (the kitchen!), Scandinavian furniture design can be found on four legs, reminiscent of northern Germany (Die Knotentafel! The house bar!) And Schmidt’s artfulness (Barlach! Nolde!). But the zeitgeist also speaks from the flower motifs that Loki Schmidt had branded on wall plates “For the love of nature”. Even who doesn’t preferably a botanist would have become like Loki Schmidt, painted or drew plants in the fifties and sixties and hung the more or less successful works on the wall: the old paintings were mostly burned in the war.
With the garden went Loki Schmidt a dream come true and her husband knew how to make her a special pleasure here. For Hannelore’s seventieth birthday in 1989 he had a greenhouse built for a comparatively lush 123,000 German marks. The plant sanctuary made of glass is equipped with all baffles: Electric windows, heating system and irrigation system had to be. And so the dull red climbing cactus Selenicereu wittii thrived in the north German lowlands, which is otherwise only to be found in the flooded forests of the Blackwater Amazon (and in a few botanical gardens).
The memorial stone for the firstborn lies under a cherry tree
Particularly touching – and probably written down in such detail for the first time – is a very personal story of the Schmidt couple, which refers to the last years of the war in Bernau near Berlin. Here they had been happy about their firstborn. Helmut Walter Schmidt was born on June 26, 1944 and died only seven months later, probably from meningitis. When his son died, Helmut Schmidt had already been assigned to the Western Front. It was only months later that he found out about the boy’s death – by letter from the field post.
How it must have hit him can be gauged from the fact that you usually only think of the business journalist Susanne Schmidt (born 1947) when it comes to the children of Helmut and Loki. He didn’t talk about it. The boy – called Moritzelchen – was buried in Schönow, a district of Bernau. There are some children’s graves here, but nothing reminds of Helmut Walter Schmidt. Due to the division of Germany, the way to the grave was blocked for the Schmidts.
It was not until 1979 that Loki Schmidt found the grave site with the help of Herbert Wehner, the party chairman of the SPD in the German Bundestag, the GDR negotiator Wolfgang Vogel and the pastor responsible, Norbert Lautenschläger. They had it restored and commissioned a new memorial stone for it. Whenever they were able to travel to the GDR, they visited their son’s grave. In 2013 – two years before his own death – Helmut Schmidt had the resting place closed: “Unfortunately, because of my age and my health, I can no longer come to Schönow or to you in Bernau to arrange the resolution of my son’s grave.” Schmidt sent a driver to bring the memorial stone to Hamburg.
It is now under a cherry tree in the garden – behind the private archive and thus away from the public figure who needs to be researched here.
Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt Foundation: At home with Loki and Helmut Schmidt: The Chancellor’s House in Hamburg-Langenhorn. Verlag Edel Book, Hamburg, September 2020, 224 pages, 22 euros.