Alfred von Tirpitz

Alfred von Tirpitz was not only German Grand Admiral but also State Secretary of the Imperial Navy Office and built under Kaiser Wilhelm II, the German Navy to one of the most powerful naval forces of his time.



Origin and teenage years:

Alfred Peter Friedrich Tirpitz was born on 19 March 1849 in Küstrin, the son of the Royal Prussian Privy Councilor Rudolf Tirpitz and Malwine Tirpitz.

The elevation to the peerage took place only on 12 June 1900, so that Alfred was called from then on of Tirpitz.



Military career:

Tirpitz joined the Prussian Navy in the rank of cadet on April 24, 1865 at. On June 24, 1866, he was promoted to midshipman, and on August 1, 1866, training began on the sailing training ship SMS Musquito, with which Tirpitz sailed from Kiel to the western Mediterranean and back.

After the founding of the North German Confederation and thus also the founding of the Navy of the North German Confederation, Tirpitz joined this on 24 June 1869 and was promoted on 22 September 1869 to lieutenant to the sea.

Further promotions:
- May 25, 1872 lieutenant at sea
- 18 November 1875 to lieutenant-captain
- 17 September 1881 to the Corvette captain
- 24 November 1888 captain to the sea
- May 13, 1895 Rear Admiral
- 5th December 1899 Vice-Admiral
- November 14, 1903 Admiral
- January 27, 1911 Rank and title of a Grand Admiral


In 1897 Tirpitz was declared Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs together with Bernhard von Bülow and commissioned by Kaiser Wilhelm II to set up the German High Seas Fleet.


Alfred von Tirpitz




The construction of the German Navy:

The known as Tirpitz Plan construction of the German Navy served several purposes. On the one hand, the steadily growing movement of goods over water, the trade routes, should be protected against attacks. On the other hand, Britain was threatened by the economic power of the German Reich. Even before the construction of the High Seas Fleet at the end of the 19th century, there was widespread aversion in the United Kingdom to the German Empire, as illustrated by some newspaper articles propagating the destruction of the German Reich so that every Briton could profit from it.

The interpretation of the fleet strength of the German Navy was recorded by Tirpitz on 2/3 of the British fleet. Tirpitz was already aware at the beginning of the naval construction that a naval war against Great Britain could not be won, for this reason the German navy had a defensive character from the outset and was supposed to take over the protection of the North and Baltic Seas. Even a British naval blockade was included early in the planning, but it was assumed that this would be much closer to the German coast and not, as later in the First World War, closer to the British coast.

The construction of the fleet should continue to prevent Great Britain only a war with the German Empire, but not provoke a war. The point was to make the British aware that in a naval war the British losses would be too high when the UK took them.


The period was set by Tirpitz to a total of 20 years, until the German fleet would have the desired strength. He also endeavored to enforce naval laws, which set a legally fixed number of ships, sailors, etc. This should make a short-term change or cancellation by the Reichstag impossible.

Consequences of the fleet program:
- The construction devoured large amounts of resources that the army lacked
- Due to the strong propaganda, the construction at home and abroad received great attention
- For the construction an enemy image and thus a justification had to be created. Since France and Russia did not hold a corresponding navy, Britain was built over time as a future enemy
- Although it was known at an early stage that a direct decisive battle as well as the blockade of the German coast from Great Britain would not be carried out, this plan and thus the corresponding structure of the fleet was maintained


Alfred von Tirpitz




Tirpitz in the First World War:

During the First World War, the fleet built up by Tirpitz did not come into effect. Tirpitz wanted to use this offense against Great Britain to early decision to seek. These plans, however, were supported neither by Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg nor by Emperor Wilhelm II, as they sought communication with Great Britain on the one hand and on the other hand in order not to lose any of the ships. Wilhelm in particular was afraid of using his ships.

This led to many disagreements over the first two years of the war, especially with the Kaiser and the question of unrestricted U-boat warfare. Since neither the Chancellor nor the Emperor wanted to use the fleet offensive, resigned from Tirpitz on March 15, 1916 as Secretary of State in the Imperial Navy Office.




Entry into politics:

Tirpitz turned to politics in 1917 when leaving military service. The background to this was the peace resolution adopted on 19 July 1917 in the Reichstag, which aimed for a peace of understanding with the Allies and thus for an end to the war.

Together with Wolfgang Kapp, Heinrich Claß and Conrad Freiherr von Wangenheim Tirpitz built up the German Fatherland Party (DVLP), which saw itself as an all-German and nationalist party and wanted to face the majority in the Reichstag from FVP, center and SPD.

Targets included:
- annexation of Belgium
- Annexation of the ore basin of Briey and Longwy
- annexation of the French Channel coast, including Normandy
- annexation of Luxembourg
- a subordination of the Netherlands to German politics (up to annexation)
- a closed colonial empire in Africa, including Belgian Congo
- Creation of a Polish state dependent on Germany
- annexation of the Russian Baltic Sea Governments and Lithuania (and a comprehensive "Germanization" of these areas)
- Annexation of parts of western Belarus and western Ukraine
- Freedom of the seas - in the sense that the German fleet must be able to safeguard German interests worldwide
- Assignment of Gibraltar, Malta and Cyprus by Great Britain
- Payment of huge amounts of compensation by the enemy powers

In addition, Erich Ludendorff and Paul von Hindenburg began to build propagandistic as a "people's emperor". It should be established by a military "strong man" who can lead the German Empire.


Alfred von Tirpitz as Reichstag deputy


After the war, Tirpitz continued to lead the party and sat as a member of the German National People's Party (DNVP) in the years 1924-1928 in the Reichstag. Then he retired from politics.




The end of life:

Alfred Peter Friedrich von Tirpitz died on March 6, 1930 in Ebenhausen near Munich and was buried at the Forest Cemetery in Munich.





  • November 18, 1884 wedding with Marie Auguste Lipke


  • Son Wolfgang von Tirpitz
  • Daughter Ilse von Tirpitz
  • 2 more children




Honors and naming:

  • 18 September 1903 Award Grand Cross with crown to the Order of Philip the Magnanimous
  • 10th August 1915 Awarding Order Pour le Mérite
  • The battleship Tirpitz, sister ship of the Bismarck, was named after him
  • The main building of the torpedo station in Flensburg-Mürwik was named "Tirpitz-Kaserne". The road leading to the torpedo station also received the name Tirpitzstraße on January 9, 1914
  • The Tirpitz harbor and the Tirpitz pier in the naval port of Kiel
  • The Tirpitz bridge in the naval base Wilhelmshaven
  • In many cities (Hamm, Oberhausen, Oldenburg, Plön and others) there is a Tirpitzstraße
  • Honorary citizenship of the city of Frankfurt an der Oder
  • The Tirpitz Mountains on the island of Lavongai in Papua New Guinea






You can find the right literature here:


Tirpitz and the Imperial German Navy

Tirpitz and the Imperial German Navy Hardcover – May 3, 2011

Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz (1849–1930) was the principal force behind the rise of the German Imperial Navy prior to World War I, challenging Great Britain’s command of the seas. As State Secretary of the Imperial Naval Office from 1897 to 1916, Tirpitz wielded great power and influence over the national agenda during that crucial period. By the time he had risen to high office, Tirpitz was well equipped to use his position as a platform from which to dominate German defense policy. Though he was cool to the potential of the U-boat, he enthusiastically supported a torpedo boat branch of the navy and began an ambitious building program for battleships and battle cruisers. Based on exhaustive archival research, including new material from family papers, Tirpitz and the Imperial German Navy is the first extended study in English of this germinal figure in the growth of the modern navy.

Click here!



Alfred Von Tirpitz and German Right-Wing Politics, 1914-1930

Alfred Von Tirpitz and German Right-Wing Politics, 1914-1930 (Studies in Central European Histories) First Edition Edition

In a skillful combination of biographical case study and contextual analysis, Scheck presents a readable, often thrilling, account of the troubled transition period before the Nazi catastrophe. Drawing from a vast base of previously unused documents, the book traces the conspiracies and public campaigns of Great Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, a key figure of the German right. By focusing on Tirpitz, known as a supreme politician and manipulator of public opinion, Scheck explains the political and ideological problems contributing to the breakdown of the conservative German right and to the success of the National Socialists in the early 1930s.

Click here!






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