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Kriegsmarine

til the end of the war, the surviving surface fleet of the Kriegsmarine (heavy cruisers: Admiral Scheer, Lützow, Admiral Hipper, Prinz Eugen, light cruisers: Nürnberg, Köln, Emden) was heavily engaged in providing artillery support to the retreating German land forces along the Baltic coast and in ferrying civilian refugees to the western Baltic Sea parts of Germany (Mecklenburg, Schleswig-Holstein) in large rescue operations. Large parts of the population of eastern Germany fled the approaching Red Army out of fear for Soviet retaliation (mass rapes, killings and looting by Soviet troops did occur). The Kriegsmarine evacuated two million civilians and troops in the evacuation of East Prussia and Danzig from January to May 1945. It was during this activity that the catastrophic sinking of several large passenger ships occurred: the Wilhelm Gustloff and the Goya were sunk by Soviet submarines, while the Cap Arcona was sunk by British bombers, each sinking claiming thousands of civilian lives. The Kriegsmarine also provided important assistance in the evacuation of the fleeing German civilians of Pomerania and Stettin in March and April 1945.

A desperate measure of the Kriegsmarine to fight the superior strength of the .

Command structure

Adolf Hitler was the Commander-in-Chief of all German armed forces, including the Kriegsmarine. His authority was exercised through the Hans-Georg von Friedeburg was then Commander-in-Chief of the OKM for the short period of time until Germany surrendered in May 1945.

Subordinate to these were regional, squadron and temporary flotilla commands. Regional commands covered significant naval regions and were themselves sub-divided, as necessary. They were commanded by a Generaladmiral or an Admiral. There was a Marineoberkommando for the Baltic Fleet, Nord, Nordsee, Norwegen, Ost/Ostsee (formerly Baltic), Süd and West. The Kriegsmarine used a form of encoding called Gradnetzmeldeverfahren to denote regions on a map.

Each squadron (organized by type of ship) also had a command structure with its own Flag Officer. The commands were Battleships, Cruisers, Destroyers, Submarines (Führer der Unterseeboote), Torpedo

and the battleship Admiral Scheer and Admiral Graf Spee but this tactic was largely abandoned in the second half of the war. Along with the U-boats, surface commerce raiders (including auxiliary cruisers) were used to disrupt Allied shipping in the early years of the war, the most famous of these being the heavy cruisers Battle of the Atlantic were rapidly assembled groups of submarines which attacked British convoys during the first half of the Wolfpacks was abandoned at the beginning of World War II. Plan Z, most of which were constructed after U-boats The Kriegsmarine's most famous ships were the

The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly during German naval rearmament in the 1930s (the Treaty of Versailles had limited the size of the German navy previously). In January 1939 Plan Z was ordered, calling for the construction of many naval vessels. The ships of the Kriegsmarine fought during the Spanish Civil War and World War II. The Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine (as for all branches of armed forces during the period of absolute Nazi power) was Adolf Hitler, who exercised his authority through the Oberkommando der Marine.

The Kriegsmarine (German pronunciation: , War Navy) was the name of the Navy of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It superseded the Imperial German Navy of World War I and the inter-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the armed forces of Nazi Germany.

Wartime propaganda poster
Kriegsmarine (KM)
Active 1935–1945
Country Nazi Germany
Type Navy
Part of Wehrmacht
Engagements Spanish Civil War
World War II
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Erich Raeder
Karl Dönitz
Hans-Georg von Friedeburg
Insignia
War Ensign (1938–1945)
War Ensign (1935–1938)
Blücher, Admiral Hipper

Heavy cruisers

Three O-class battlecruisers were ordered in 1939, but with the start of the war the same year there were not enough resources to build the ships.

Battlecruisers

The World War I era Pre-dreadnought battleships Schlesien and Schleswig-Holstein were used mainly as training ships, although they also participated in several military operations. Zähringen and Hessen were converted into radio-guided target ships in 1928 and 1930 respectively. Hannover was decommissioned in 1931 and struck from the naval register in 1936. Plans to convert her into a radio-controlled target ship for aircraft was canceled because of the outbreak of war in 1939.

Pre-dreadnought battleships

The Graf Spee was scuttled by her own crew in the Battle of the River Plate, in the Rio de la Plata estuary in December 1939. Admiral Scheer was bombed on 9 April 1945 in port at Kiel and badly damaged, essentially beyond repair, and rolled over at her moorings. After the war that part of the harbor was filled in with rubble and the hulk buried. Lützow (ex-Deutschland) was bombed 16 April 1945 in the Baltic off Schwinemünde just west of Stettin, and settled on the shallow bottom. With the Soviet Army advancing across the Oder, the ship was destroyed in place to prevent the Soviets capturing anything useful. The wreck was dismantled and scrapped in 1948–1949.[19]

The "Pocket battleships" were the Deutschland (later renamed Lützow), Admiral Scheer, and Admiral Graf Spee. Modern commentators favour classifying these as "heavy cruisers" and the Kriegsmarine itself reclassified these ships as such (Schwere Kreuzer) in 1940.[18] In German language usage these three ships were designed and built as "armoured ships" (Panzerschiffe) – "pocket battleship" is an English label.

Pocket battleships (Panzerschiffe)

The Kriegsmarine completed four battleships during its existence. The first pair were the 11-inch gun Scharnhorst class, consisting of the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, which participated in the invasion of Norway (Operation Weserübung) in 1940, and then in commerce raiding until the Gneisenau was heavily damaged by a British air raid in 1942 and the Scharnhorst was sunk in the Battle of the North Cape in late 1943. The second pair were the 15-inch gun Bismarck class, consisting of the Bismarck and Tirpitz. The Bismarck was sunk on her first sortie into the Atlantic in 1941 (Operation Rheinübung) although she did sink the battlecruiser Hood and severely damage the battleship Prince of Wales, while the Tirpitz was based in Norwegian ports during most of the war as a fleet in being, tying up Allied naval forces, and subject to a number of attacks by British aircraft and submarines. More battleships were planned (the H-class), but construction was abandoned in September 1939.

Battleships

All engineering of the aircraft carriers like catapults, arresting gears and so on were tested and developed at the Erprobungsstelle See Travemünde (Experimental Place Sea in Travemünde) including the airplanes for the aircraft carriers, the Fieseler Fi 167 ship-borne biplane torpedo and reconnaissance bomber and the navalized versions of two key early war Luftwaffe aircraft: the Messerschmitt Bf 109T fighter and Junkers Ju 87C Stuka dive bomber.

Construction of the Graf Zeppelin was started in 1936 and construction of an unnamed sister ship was started two years later in 1938, but neither ship was completed. In 1942 conversion of three German passenger ships (Europa, Potsdam, Gneisenau) and two unfinished cruisers—the captured French light cruiser De Grasse and the German heavy cruiser Seydlitz— to auxiliary carriers was begun. In November 1942 the conversion of the passenger ships was stopped because these ships were now seen as too slow for operations with the fleet. But conversion of one of these ships, the Potsdam, to a training carrier was begun instead. In February 1943 all the work on carriers was halted because of the German failure during the Battle of the Barents Sea which convinced Hitler that big warships were useless.

Aircraft carriers

The main combat ships of the Kriegsmarine (excluding U-boats):

Surface ships

Some ship types do not fit clearly into the commonly used ship classifications. Where there is argument, this has been noted.

By the start of World War II, much of the Kriegsmarine were modern ships: fast, well-armed and well-armoured. This had been achieved by concealment but also by deliberately flouting World War I peace terms and those of various naval treaties. However, the war started with the German Navy still at a distinct disadvantage in terms of sheer size with what were expected to be its primary adversaries – the navies of France and Great Britain. Although a major re-armament of the navy (Plan Z) was planned, and initially begun, the start of the war in 1939 meant that the vast amounts of material required for the project were diverted to other areas. The sheer disparity in size when compared to the other European powers navies prompted German naval commander in chief Grand Admiral Erich Raeder to write of his own navy once the war began "The surface forces can do no more than show that they know how to die gallantly." A number of captured ships from occupied countries were added to the German fleet as the war progressed.[17] Though six major units of the Kriegsmarine were sunk during the war (both Bismarck-class battleships and both Scharnhorst-class battleships, as well as two heavy cruisers), there were still many ships afloat (including four heavy cruisers and four light cruisers) as late as March 1945.

R boats operating near the coast of occupied France, 1941

Ships

  • Wikinger ("Viking") (1940) – foray by destroyers into the North Sea
  • Weserübung ("Exercise Weser") (1940) – invasion of Denmark and Norway
  • Juno (1940) – operation to disrupt Allied supplies to Norway
  • Nordseetour (1940) – first Atlantic operation of Admiral Hipper
  • Berlin (1941) – Atlantic cruise of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau
  • Rheinübung ("Exercise Rhine") (1941) – breakout by Bismarck and Prinz Eugen
  • Doppelschlag ("Double blow") (1942) – anti-shipping operation off Novaya Zemlya by Admiral Scheer and Admiral Hipper
  • Sportpalast (1942) – aborted operation (including Tirpitz) to attack Arctic convoys
  • Rösselsprung ("Knights Move") (1942) – operation (including Tirpitz) to attack Arctic convoy PQ 17
  • Wunderland (1942) – anti-shipping operation in Kara Sea by Admiral Scheer
  • Paukenschlag ("Drumbeat" ("Beat of the Kettle Drum"); "Second Happy Time") (1942) – U-boat campaign off the United States east coast
  • Regenbogen ("Rainbow") (1942) – failed attack on Arctic convoy JW-51B, by Admiral Hipper and Lützow
  • Cerberus (1942) – movement of capital ships from Brest to home ports in Germany (Channel Dash)
  • Ostfront ("East front") (1943) – final operation of Scharnhorst, to intercept convoy JW 55B
  • Domino (1943) – second aborted Arctic sortie by Scharnhorst, Prinz Eugen and destroyers
  • Zitronella ("Lemon extract") (1943) – raid upon Allied-occupied Spitzbergen (Svalbard)
  • Hannibal (1945) – evacuation proceedings from Courland, Danzig-West Prussia and East Prussia
  • Deadlight (1945) – the British Royal Navy's postwar scuttling of Kriegsmarine U-boats

Major wartime operations

The destroyers and the Soviet share light cruiser Nürnberg were all retired by the end of the 1950s, but five escort destroyers were returned from the French to the new West German navy in the 1950s and three 1945 scuttled type XXI and XXIII U-boats were raised by West Germany and integrated into their new navy. In 1956, with West Germany's accession to NATO, a new navy was established and was referred to as the Bundesmarine (Federal Navy). Some Kriegsmarine commanders like Erich Topp and Otto Kretschmer went on to serve in the Bundesmarine. In East Germany the Volksmarine (People's Navy) was established in 1956. With the reunification of Germany in 1990, it was decided to simply use the name Deutsche Marine (German Navy).

After the war, the German surface ships that remained afloat (only the cruisers German Mine Sweeping Administration, the GMSA, which consisted of 27,000 members of the former Kriegsmarine and 300 vessels.[16]

Post-war division

On 16 July 1941, Fregattenkapitän Dr. Hans Kawelmacher was appointed the German naval commandant in Liepāja.[12] On 22 July, Kawelmacher sent a telegram to the German Navy's Baltic Command in Kiel, which stated that he wanted 100 SS and fifty Schutzpolizei ("protective police") men sent to Liepāja for "quick implementation Jewish problem".[13] Kawelmacher hoped to accelerate killings complaining: "Here about 8,000 Jews... with present SS-personnel, this would take one year, which is untenable for [the] pacification of Liepāja."[14] Kawelmacher on 27 July 1941: "Jewish problem Libau largely solved by execution of about 1,100 male Jews by Riga SS commando on 24 and 25.7."[13]

  • All Jews must wear the yellow star on the front and back of their clothing;
  • Shopping hours for Jews were restricted to 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. Jews were only allowed out of their residences for these hours and from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.;
  • Jews were barred from public events and transportation and were not to walk on the beach;
  • Jews were required to leave the sidewalk if they encountered a German in uniform;
  • Jewish shops were required to display the sign "A Jewish-owned business" in the window;
  • Jews were to surrender all radios, typewriters, uniforms, arms and means of transportation

After the German conquest on 29 June 1941, the naval base at Liepāja, Latvia came under the command of the Kriegsmarine. On 1 July 1941, town commandant Korvettenkapitän Stein ordered that ten hostages be shot for every act of sabotage, and further put civilians in the zone of targeting by declaring that Red Army soldiers were hiding among them in civilian attire. On 5 July 1941 Korvettenkapitän Brückner, who had taken over for Stein, issued a set of anti-Jewish regulations[10] in the local newspaper, Kurzemes Vārds.[9] Summarized these were as follows:[11]

Anti-Jewish measures ordered by the German naval commander in Liepāja, 5 July 1941[9]

War crimes

During 1943 and 1944, due to Allied anti-submarine tactics and better equipment the U-boat fleet started to suffer heavy losses. The turning point of the Battle of the Atlantic was during Black May in 1943, when the U-boat fleet started suffering heavy losses and the number of Allied ships sunk started to decrease. Radar, longer range air cover, Sonar, improved tactics and new weapons all contributed. German technical developments, such as the Schnorchel, attempted to counter these. Near the end of the war a small number of the new Elektroboot U-boats (XXI and XXIII) became operational, the first submarines designed to operate submerged at all times. The Elektroboote had the potential to negate the Allied technological and tactical advantage, although they were deployed too late to see combat in the war.[8]

During the later war years, the "Monsun Boats" were also used as a means of exchanging vital war supplies with Japan. [7] Between 1943 and 1945, a group of U-boats known as the

[4]

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