Leonid Brezhnev: under Karl Marx on the bookshelf
The visit from Soviet head of state Leonid Brezhnev in May 1978 to Helmut Schmidt’s private house was particularly unusual. Schmidt had convinced Brezhnev to travel from Cologne/Bonn to Hamburg with a Boeing 707 from the German military (instead of the Soviet Ilyuschin 62) to join him for lunch with a personal touch. Later, Helmut Schmidt would often tell the following anecdote: On arriving in Langenhorn, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union could hardly believe that he was in a normal residential area, the quality of life in comparison with that of the USSR was so much higher. He was also surprised that Schmidt’s house was not surrounded by high walls – surely, this couldn’t be where the German head of government lived? The visit yielded a famous photo of Leonid Brezhnev on Schmidt’s couch, coincidentally sitting under the collected works of Karl Marx.
The royal couple on Neubergerweg
Some guests may have been used to something other than the modest semi-detached house in a residential neighbourhood on Neubergerweg. When the Spanish royal couple came to visit Germany on a state visit in the 1980s, they also visited Hamburg. After going to the opera, Helmut and Loki Schmidt also sat for several hours in their living room with the Spanish King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia. Fans of the royal couple waited until 2am on the street to finally catch a glimpse of them. Loki Schmidt later remembered that Queen Sofia had whispered to her “the women are surely disappointed that I am not wearing a crown.”
Musically gifted – Helmut Schmidt and Art
Throughout his life, Helmut Schmidt was always devoted to the arts, music and painting. As a youth he yearned to be an architect. Things turned out differently at the end of the Second World War, when he decided to study economics, mainly for financial reasons (it was shorter and tuition less expensive). He had loved the painter Emil Nolde since he was a teenager, and would later hang some of his paintings in his home at Hamburg-Langenhorn.
His favourite composer was Johann Sebastian Bach. Schmidt himself played the piano until well into old age, even with the limitations imposed by his gradually fading hearing. In interviews he said that when reading the sheet music, he could still imagine how the music sounded. He always credited his love for art and culture, in part, to his time at the Lichtwarkschule.
The House in Langenhorn today
Today, the Schmidt house in Hamburg-Langenhorn is home to the Helmut and Loki Schmidt Foundation. Its task, alongside researching the life and works of Helmut and Loki Schmidt, is to maintain and use their former home for future generations. The Foundation’s homepage hosts a virtual tour of the house, which gives a wonderful impression of the space.