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Germany says its last farewell to Helmut Schmidt

Almost two weeks after the passing of former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, a state funeral is taking place in his home city of Hamburg. Thousands are expected to pay their respects during a later funeral procession.

The ceremony on Monday in Hamburg's St. Michael's church - colloquially called "Michel" - drew an estimated 1,800 invited guests, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck.

"Helmut Schmidt's death was a bitter event for us all," Merkel said to the 1,800 guests.

A number of international guests, including Schmidt's longtime friend, former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, along with Italy's former president, Giorgio Napolitano, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, also paid their last respects.

Hamburg's mayor Olaf Scholz (SPD) described the late former chancellor as the city's greatest son.

"We have lost a giant," Scholz said, adding that it was barely comprehensible that "future social and political debates must be held without him."

A large crowd lined the streets on Monday as the funeral cortege, accompanied by a police escort, made its way to the cemetery in the district of Ohlsdorf, where Schmidt's body was later cremated and buried in the family tomb in a private ceremony.

DW's Ben Knight tweeted from outside St. Michael's church, where security was extremely low, despite the Europe-wide terror alert in light of the recent Paris attacks.

Elder statesman

Schmidt

died on 10 November

at his Hamburg home at the age of 96. A Social Democrat, he was chancellor of Germany from 1974 to 1982. His time in office was marked by the oil crisis and the fight against the far-left terrorist group "Red Army Faction."

From 1983 until his death, he was the editor of the prestigious German weekly "Die Zeit," and attained the status of

an intellectual and moral authority

for many Germans, despite his well-known penchant for acid-tongued verbal attacks on opponents.

tj/kms (epd, AFP)

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