Alfred Von Tirpitz

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Tirpitz, Alfred Von


Born Mar. 19, 1849, in Küstrin; died Mar. 6, 1930, in Ebenhausen, near Munich. German naval commander and political figure. Grand admiral (1911).

Tirpitz came from a bourgeois family but was elevated to the nobility in 1900. He joined the navy in 1865 and because of his exceptional abilities rose rapidly in the service. In 1890 he became chief of staff of the Baltic Fleet and from 1892 to 1895 served as chief of staff of the Navy High Command. While commanding a cruiser squadron in East Asia in 1896–97, Tirpitz was the prime mover behind the seizure of the Chinese port of Tsingtao and the creation there of a German naval base. From 1897 to 1916 he served as secretary of state for the Imperial Navy Department.

Tirpitz played a major role in shaping the aggressive political course taken by Germany. Expressing the interests of the German imperialists, he was a strong proponent of the naval arms race; he worked to create a strong navy capable of challenging the British Navy and of serving as a tool of German imperialism in the struggle to repartition the world. Tirpitz regarded Great Britain as Germany’s chief enemy and called for an alliance with Japan and the neutralization of Russia.

During World War I, Tirpitz was a supporter of unlimited submarine warfare and merciless air bombings of the industrial centers and military targets of Great Britain. Disagreements with the chancellor, T. von Bethmann-Hollweg, regarding the submarine war led to Tirpitz’ retirement on Mar. 15, 1916. Together with W. Kapp, Tirpitz founded the ultrareactionary German Fatherland Party in September 1917. He maintained a revanchist position after the war. In 1919, Tirpitz published his Memoirs (Russian translation, Moscow, 1957), in which he blamed Germany’s defeat on the failure of the political leadership to make sufficient use of the German Navy. From 1924 to 1928, Tirpitz was a deputy to the Reichstag, representing the German National People’s Party.


Alafuzov, V. A. Doktriny germanskogo flota. Moscow, 1956.
Trotha, A. von. Grossadmiral von Tirpitz. Breslau [1932].
Marine und Marinepolitik im kaiserlichen Deutschland. Düsseldorf, 1972.
Hubatsch, W. Die Ära Tirpitz. Góttingen [1955].
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The Second Fleet Act of 1900, introduced by Admiral von Tirpitz, initiated an ambitious programme.
The work was originally published in 2008; the 2011 edition has added more than two thousand names that range from prominent French admirals such as Suffren, d'Estaing, and Raoul Castex to the British explorers Captain James Cook and Ernest Shackleton; Admirals Rodney, Nelson, Beresford, Jellicoe, and Fraser; such Germans as Admiral von Tirpitz and Count von Luckner; prominent early American naval officers like Abraham Whipple, John Paul Jones, John Barry, Stephen Decatur, William Bainbridge, Oliver Hazard Perry, and Matthew Perry; and later admirals of the U.
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