Book look: Karlauf & Kermani

Helmut Schmidt’s responsibilities in the Wehrmacht during the war is the dominating topic of a new book. Thomas Karlauf sat down with the former German chancellor for hours and hours to focus on his post-government legacy for “Helmut Schmidt. Die späten Jahre”. The 500-page tome – now out by Siedler – does not just document the controversies concerning Schmidt’s World War Two position, his Jewish grandfather and his opinion on his people’s guilt. The author also describes how Schmidt felt honoured when rumour has it he could become the SPD’s frontrunner again in 1993 during the ill-fated Björn Engholm period. Another essential subject of “Helmut Schmidt. Die späten Jahre” – which Karlauf continued to work on after Schmidt’s death in November 2015 – is Schmidt’s Deutsche Nationalstiftung initiative and his difficulties concerning funds. The late financial minister was confident he would create a 30 million Euro backup. Eventually, the foundation achieved an average eight million Euros. Karlauf also tries to find out why Schmidt and Gerhard Schröder – who was in office as chancellor between 1998 and 2005 – never really found a connection despite similar characteristics of their personalities. The author – who had access to Schmidt’s immense personal archive of notes, letters, articles and literature – furthermore examines the SPD icon’s attacks on Helmut Kohl, his conservative successor as chancellor. Their relationship later normalised, but Schmidt remained critical regarding the CDU man’s pace in reunifying Germany. Karlauf’s brilliant documentation of Schmidt’s post-government activities reminds of his praise for Wolfgang Schäuble and the conflicts between Schmidt and Willy Brandt. The book features an analysis of Schmidt’s involvement in creating a European currency and questions his lenient approach towards China’s dictatorial leaders.

Helmut Schmidt. Die späten Jahre
By Thomas Karlauf
Published by Siedler (

From Tehran to Baghdad, from Kurdistan to Kashmir. Navid Kermani has visited crisis regions, refugee camps and civil war zones for his book. “Ausnahmezustand. Reisen in eine beunruhigte Welt”. The Cologne-based author, who has received various awards and acknowledgements over the years for his outstanding journalistic achievements – once ore creates authentic portraits of people in desperate life situations. He analyses the effects of global conflicts on them, but first and foremost, Kermani listens. This is what makes his books so special. Kermani takes paths other writers void. His essays and reports help us understanding this complex world a little better. Kermani’s 300-page book follows “Willy Brandt und Helmut Schmidt. Geschichte einer schwierigen Freundschaft.” By Gunter Hofmann. This C.H. Beck publication examines the relationship between the leftist chancellor and his successor who was not driven by emotions at all. Hofmann, who previously wrote an excellent Richard von Weizsäcker biography, explains which views and policies Brandt and Schmidt shared – and which political aspects kept them from cooperating more closely. Ulrich Raulff’s book “Das letzte Jahrhundert der Pferde. Geschichte einer Trennung” meanwhile describes the alliance of humans and horses from the early beginnings until today. Raulff (“Kreis ohne Meister. Stefan Georges Nachleben”) writes about horses’ important role in wars and agriculture before examining their status as a symbol of elegance, pace and power.

Ausnahmezustand. Reisen in eine beunruhigte Welt
By Navid Kermani
Published by C.H. Beck (

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