Germany class (1931)

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Admiral Graf Spee
Admiral Graf Spee
Type Heavy cruiser
units Germany
Admiral Scheer
Admiral Graf Spee
Order March 30, 1928 (approval by the Reichstag)
delivery April 1932 to January 1936
1. Period of service flag
period of service


Technical specifications
For details of the technical data, see individual ships
2 seaplanes
(1 catapult)

until 1939: Heinkel He 60D ,
from 1939: Arado 196

The Deutschland class consisted of three warships that were built for the German Imperial Navy under the restrictions of the Versailles Treaty . In the Navy and later the Navy was for the ships of the Germany class following the Versailles Treaty in used French word cuirassé the type approach (armored ship) first ironclad used. On February 15, 1940, however, the type address was changed to heavy cruiser . The time of their construction, they were of British side because of their relatively small size and strong artillery as pocket battleships called (pocket battleships).


Situation after the First World War

After the First World War was lost , the Versailles Treaty set rigid upper limits for German naval armaments. The Germany conceded limited number of battleships obsolete type (see. Battleships of the Navy ) was allowed only by armored no longer ships with 10,000 ts (equivalent to 10,160 metric tons ) standard displacement to be replaced. For comparison: in the Washington Naval Agreement , the USA , Great Britain , France , Italy and Japan agreed on a limit of 35,000 tons standard displacement and 40.6 cm caliber for battleships. The limit of 10,000 tons, on the other hand, corresponded to that of the Washington Treaty for the ship class of heavy cruisers (so-called Washington cruisers), but these were typically limited to armament with guns of 20.3 cm.

After several preliminary drafts, a decision was made in favor of a ship with 6 × 28 cm guns in two triple towers and with a diesel engine drive, which enabled a maximum speed of approx. 26  kn in connection with an above-average range. The armor was up to 80 mm on the sides and 30–45 mm on the deck.

Domestic opposition

The construction demanded by the naval management under Hans Zenker was more of a prestige project than militarily sensible. On March 30, 1928, in the Reichstag against the votes of the opposition SPD and KPD, the first installment for the construction of the first unit (armored ship A) in the amount of 9.3 million Reichsmarks was included in the Reich budget. The Reichsrat, led by Prussia, postponed the final decision. Because of the high costs, the building was sharply criticized by the SPD in the 1928 Reichstag election campaign . After the election, however , the cabinet members of the SPD approved the construction after Reichswehr Minister Groener , who had the support of Reich President Hindenburg , threatened to resign. The parliamentary group in the Reichstag was still against the building and subjected the members of the cabinet to discipline . A motion by the SPD parliamentary group to stop construction found no majority in the Reichstag in a vote on November 16, 1928 by votes from the DNVP . The KPD started a referendum against the building, but it failed with only 1.2 million yes-votes.

Foreign policy impact

The British called the three ships of this class Pocket Battleships , as their heavy artillery of six 28 cm guns was far superior to that of the heavy cruisers and on a par with many older battleships. In response to the ironclads built France , the two battleships of the Dunkerque class , and there was a wave of new Schlachtschiffbauten.

Design features

The drive in the Germany class was exceptional. For the first time, a diesel engine was used for combat ships of this size. A combination of four diesel engines each drove a screw shaft via a Vulcan gearbox. The Vulcan gearbox was a hydromechanical clutch filled with water and oil, which had the advantage that the motors could be switched on independently of one another or switched off for maintenance purposes. The engines themselves were eight double-acting two-stroke diesel engines with 9 cylinders from MAN , each producing 6,750 hp at 450 revolutions. This type of engine was a successful further development of the double-acting two-stroke diesel engine for ships of the line with an output of 12,000 hp which was developed and built from 1909 as part of the diesel engine development for the Imperial Navy under the leadership of Wilhelm Laudahn .

Contrary to initial concerns, the engine type proved itself; especially the dreaded vibrations were kept within limits. A big advantage was the greater range, the weight savings, the easier maintenance compared to the complicated steam turbines and, above all, from a tactical point of view, the quick start-up of the machine system. The diesel engine seemed so promising that almost all new ships planned in the Z-Plan should be equipped with it, even the planned super battleships of the H-class .

Due to the limitation to max. 10,160 tons one was forced to save as much weight as possible. In addition to the use of aluminum alloys in some areas in the ship, z. B. welded the entire hull , eliminating the additional weight of the otherwise common connection by rivets . When riveting, the steel plates must be arranged in an overlapping manner, while welding allows a connection at the edges. The armor was incorporated into the supporting structure of the hull so that it not only contributed to the protection, but also to the strength of the hull. The ships were faster than any stronger and stronger than any faster ship for a number of years, with the exception of the considerably larger four Japanese battlecruisers of the Kongō -class and the three British battlecruisers Hood , Renown and Repulse . In particular, the heavy cruisers of the other navies were affected by this new development, as they were not more armored for a comparable size and, with their 20.3 cm artillery, could not oppose the 28 cm guns in terms of range or penetration .

In addition to the larger caliber, a new turret design was used in the Germany class, which made it possible to reload the middle barrel of the treble turret just as quickly as the two outer barrel. This technical change meant a significantly higher rate of fire than with conventional cruisers.

Differentiation of the ships
The Admiral Scheer in
Gibraltar during the Spanish Civil War

The Deutschland differed from Admiral Scheer and Admiral Graf Spee mainly in three striking features:

  • From the beginning it had a tubular tower mast ( Admiral Scheer only after the renovation in 1939/1940, Admiral Graf Spee not at all)
  • The actual command bridge was semicircular, the distance measuring device was on the roof of the bridge directly in front of the tower mast
  • The aircraft catapult was between the tower mast and the chimney (behind the chimney on the sister ships)

The distinction between Admiral Scheer and Admiral Graf Spee can mainly be made on the tower mast:

  • Because of the victory of the namesake, the Admiral Graf Spee wore a sign with the inscription Coronel halfway up the tower mast before the start of the war , while the Admiral Scheer remained without a sign.
  • After the renovation, the Admiral Scheer also had a tubular mast, but its superstructure remained more angular than that of the Germany .


Three ships of the Germany class were built. A second construction series with two enlarged ships was put on the keel in 1934, but a little later a construction freeze was ordered and the ships that had already started were canceled. These were started again in 1935 under the terms of the German-British naval agreement and completed as battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau .

The lead ship Germany

Germany , which was commissioned in April 1933 , was renamed Lützow on November 15, 1939 . This was done for psychological reasons, because Hitler did not want a ship named Germany to go under, but also to cover up the sale of the Admiral Hipper class heavy cruiser Lützow to the Soviet Union.

Ironclad Admiral Scheer

The Admiral Scheer was the second ship to enter service in November 1934. In the winter of 1939/40 an extensive renovation was carried out: The foredeck was lengthened and a larger frame was lost. In addition, the large battle tower above the bridge was expanded and replaced by a slim tubular mast in order to match the appearance of the ship to that of the Lützow . In February 1940 the Admiral Scheer was reclassified as a heavy cruiser like the Lützow .

Ironclad Admiral Graf Spee

As the last ship of the class, the Admiral Graf Spee came into service in the Navy in January 1936 . In December 1939 the ship was sunk in the mouth of the Río de la Plata off Montevideo by his own crew on the orders of the commander Hans Langsdorff , who saw the situation as hopeless and wanted to spare his crew.


  1. The French cuirassé refers to any armored ship. The type of armored ship did not refer to the special “ ironclad ” of the 19th century. There was no historical or technical connection.


  • Gerhard Koop, Klaus-Peter Schmolke: The armored ships of the Germany class . Bernard & Graefe Verlag, Bonn 1993, ISBN 3-7637-5919-0 .
  • Jochen Brennecke, Theodor Krancke: Heavy cruiser Admiral Scheer , Köhlers Verlagsges., ISBN 3-7822-0831-5 .
  • Werner Rahn : Naval armament and domestic politics of a parliamentary democracy - the example of the armored ship A 1928 . In: The German Navy - Historical Self-Image and Position Determination . Series of publications by the German Marine Institute, German Marine Academy, Vol. 4, Herford and Bonn 1983, pp. 53ff, ISBN 3-8132-0157-0 .

Web links

Commons : Deutschland-Klasse (1931)  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files