Between them, the chancellorships of the “two Helmuts” span nearly a quarter-century of German history. Helmut Schmidt led the country from 1974 to 1982; his successor, Helmut Kohl, served until 1998. But the verdict on their respective tenures has been very different. Kohl was seen as a bumbling provincial when he came to office in 1982 but, by the end of his second term, he had won a place in the history books as the “Chancellor of Unity” (Einheitskanzler). By the time he lost the election for what would have been his fifth term, he was hailed as the “master-builder” (Baumeister) of Europe for his decisive role in furthering the European Community's political and economic integration through the Maastricht Treaty and the introduction of the Euro. Schmidt, by contrast, came to office with a reputation for high administrative competence and intellectual prowess, but left the chancellery under a cloud. Der Spiegel spoke for many commentators when it dismissed him as a “good chancellor with a bad record”; few features of his period in office stood out as “proof of success.” Schmidt, it was said, had been a mere crisis manager and “problem-solver” (Macher) who lacked broader vision, so that “little endured of historical significance.” This has also been the verdict of many historians.
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