Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Helmet Schmidt passed on yesterday.  In Germany, he is remembered as the SPD Party guy who came along and impressed people with leadership and management qualities that rarely accompany a national leader.

A couple of years ago, I sat and was watching a documentary piece over the 1962 Hamburg flood episode.  It was one of the worst national disasters that has ever occurred in Germany.  It was beyond the emergency services of the city and of the region.

At the time, a young Helmet Schmidt was mayor of the town.  The disaster was reaching a stage where an enormous amount of rescue and support was needed, but simply was non-existent.  In this moment of desperation.....Schmidt stood up and said he'd go and ask for help from the US Army in Germany....something that the council and support staff frowned upon.  It was barely 17 years after the war had ended.....some felt that it was politically unwise.

Schmidt didn't wait to go through channels or drag the German national government into this and turn this into five different levels of bureaucratic nightmares.  His secretary hunted down the US general for Europe at the time and a brief two-minute conversation occurred.  The simple response from the Army general was "whatever you need, you will get".

The US army quietly arrived and for a number of days moved mountains (in the literal sense), with helicopters and heavy trucks.  Food and blankets were handed out.  Anything requested, was provided.

From this episode and the day-to-day operations.....Schmidt demonstrated this unusual quality of management....looking over a problem, deciding upon the priorities, executing decisions, and adjusting to the chaotic pace of events.

As he moved up, he repeated the same sense of management style during the Red Army (RAF) crisis period.

Some Germans would say that it'd been better off just to make Schmidt the permanent day-to-day operations chief of Germany for decades, and let various people run through and be the political guy.

The one impression that I'm continually left with when you see video-feed of Schmidt is that the guy smoked two packs of cigarettes per day.....for at least fifty years.  If you look for video of the guy....just about every single one will include him smoking, and I doubt if he could go more than fifteen minutes without lighting up.  Because of whatever DNA he has in his system.....he never developed any cancer.  He died at age 96.

An impressive guy with management and leadership qualities that you typically don't find among politicians.

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