Helmut Schlesinger was born in September 1924 in Upper Bavaria. In 1946, after leaving school and completing three years of national service, he started a degree in economics at the Ludwig Maximilians University Munich, where he graduated in 1948. He then went on to write a thesis on economic efficiency in the public administration sector and was awarded a PhD in economics in 1951.
In 1952 Schlesinger joined the then Bank deutscher Länder as a specialist for national accounting in the Economics and Statistics Department. In 1956 he took up the position of Head of the Economic Analysis and Forecasting Division and later served as Head of the Economics and Statistics Department. In 1972 Schlesinger became a Member of the Executive Board of the Deutsche Bundesbank and its chief economist. Eight years later he was appointed Vice-President, and in August 1991 he succeeded Bundesbank President Karl Otto Pöhl, who had stepped down after fighting a losing battle with Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Owing to his advanced years, his term of office was, from the outset, limited to 26 months. Schlesinger retired in 1993, having worked at the Deutsche Bundesbank for over four decades.
He was replaced by Bundesbank President Hans Tietmeyer.