Tirpitz, Alfred von

Tirpitz, Alfred von

(äl`frāt fən tĭr`pĭts), 1849–1930, German admiral. His influence on German naval policy began with his study of the recently invented torpedo and his consequent appointment (1871) as chief of the torpedo division of the navy ministry. Appointed secretary of state for naval affairs in 1897, he began to build a powerful battle fleet. The expansion of the German fleet contributed to Anglo-German enmity. Upon the outbreak of World War I, Tirpitz began the construction of submarines and advocated unrestricted submarine warfare to destroy Allied commerce. He retired in 1916 in protest against Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg's opposition to his submarine policy. Tirpitz returned to active political life as the member of a nationalist group in the Reichstag (1924–28).


See his memoirs (tr. 1919); P. J. Kelly, Tirpitz and the Imperial German Navy (2011).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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].
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.