The Nazi German Navy 1935-1945 (Kriegsmarine)
The Nazi German Navy, Kriegsmarine, was formed in May of 1935. It was formed after the passing of the “Law for the Reconstruction of the National Defense Forces”. This law brought back into existence a free-standing German army, navy, and air force, something that had been essentially banned after the end of World War I.
With the end of World War I and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, the Weimar Republic – the successor to Imperial Germany – was allowed only a small defensive military force known as the Reichswehr. The Reichswehr’s size and composition were strictly controlled by the Allies in the hope that by restricting its constitution they could prevent future German military aggression. The Reichswehr consisted of 100,000 men divided between a small standing army, the Reichsheer, and a small defensive navy, the Reichsmarine.
In 1933 the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) came to power and the infamous Third Reich was born. Two years later in 1935, the Treaty of Versailles was renounced and the Reichswehr became the Wehrmacht. The newly formed Wehrmacht would still consist of an army and a navy – the renamed Heer and Kriegsmarine, but a new air force was born as well – the Luftwaffe.
The Kriegsmarine can be said to have consisted of three main components between 1935 and 1945, individual naval vessels, naval formations consisting of specific types of ships, and a wide variety of ground-based units. From these three main components, the Kriegsmarine fielded thousands of ships and hundreds of naval formations and ground units. Between 1939 and 1945 over 1.5 million served in the Kriegsmarine. Over 65,000 were killed, over 105,000 went missing and over 21,000 were wounded. Of the 7361 men awarded the initial grade of the highest German combat honor of WWII, the Knights Cross, 318 were from the Kriegsmarine making up 4% of the total awarded.
Of all the branches of the Wehrmacht, the Kriegsmarine was the most under-appreciated. It fought against superior numbers on almost every front with a force greatly limited by a lack of effective coordination and a harsh misunderstanding from within the German High Command (OKW). Although Allied air and naval power largely destroyed the entire German High Seas Fleet and U-boat force, the smaller and auxiliary vessels of the Kriegsmarine continued to serve effectively until the last hours of WWII. These vessels saw service along thousands of miles of coast in every theater of war and provided an important link in the backbone of the Wehrmacht.
German naval ground units also provided a critical service during WWII, manning massive guns along the Atlantic Wall in the west and naval flak and artillery units all across Western and Eastern Europe. There were also countless naval infantry, engineer, and communications units as well. In the last months of WWII most, all of the naval ground units were involved directly in fighting of some form or another, some naval units even took part in the Battle of Berlin in 1945.
The Kriegsmarine was officially disbanded in August of 1946 by the Allied Control Commission, although many smaller Kriegsmarine ships survived on active service, now under Allied control, as a part of the German contingent to clear the oceans and seas of mines sown by Axis and Allies alike.
The basis for Feldgrau lays within our unit histories. In this section, you will find all units documented to one degree or another. The many gaps in these listings will be filled during the coming months and years as additional research aids completing this monumental reference tool.
Kriegsmarine unit histories
Specific unit history sections
Other sources for unit history information
Before embarking on any study of German unit histories it’s helpful to have access to research material regarding ranks, formations, terms, and other related concepts.
- Glossary of German Military Terms
- WW2 Germany Statistics, Numbers, and Losses
- WW2 German Identification Documents and Tags
- Weapons and equipment
If you have a question about a concept or something specific, you can post a message in our German Armed Forces Forum.
OUR RESEARCH THEMESSelect Theme
ReichswehrThe German Imperial Army 1918 – 1935anchour
ReichsmarineThe German Navy 1919-1935anchour
HeerThe Nazi German Army 1935-1945anchour
LuftwaffeThe Nazi German Air Force 1935-1945anchour
KriegsmarineThe Nazi German Navy 1935-1945anchour
Waffen-SSThe Nazi German Armed Waffen-SS 1933-1945anchour