The Fleet commander of the Kriegsmarine (Flottenchef) was the highest ranked administrative officer in the organization of the Kriegsmarine, and served as a member of the Oberkommando der Marine. The fleet commander did not actually serve as commander of an at-sea fleet, but instead was the senior officer to which the vessel type commanders reported. The position of fleet commander was created from an older position of the Reichsmarine known as Der Oberbefehlshaber der Seestreitkräfte.

In 1926, the position adopted the name Flottenchef, but was declared defunct one year later and left vacant with no assigned officer. The title became a position within the Kriegsmarine in 1936.

Fleet commanders

The following naval officers served in the position as Fleet commander of the Kriegsmarine.

No. Picture Fleet commander Took office Left office Time in office
Carls, RolfAdmiral
Rolf Carls
21 December 193631 October 19381 year, 314 days
Böhm, HermannAdmiral
Hermann Böhm
1 November 193821 October 1939354 days
Marschall, WilhelmAdmiral
Wilhelm Marschall
21 October 19397 July 1940260 days
Lütjens, GüntherAdmiral
Günther Lütjens
7 July 194027 May 1941 †324 days
Schniewind, OttoGeneraladmiral
Otto Schniewind
12 June 194131 July 19443 years, 49 days
Meendsen, WilhelmVizeadmiral
Wilhelm Meendsen-Bohlken
31 July 19448 May 1945281 days

From December 1940 to June 1941, a deputy to the fleet commander was established known by the title 2. Admiral der Flotte. The only officer to hold this position was Konteradmiral Leopold Siemens.

Relationships with other components

The fleet commander, by practice, was typically most closely associated with the German battleship branch. Most fleet commanders would make their flagship on-board one of Germany's larger capital ships. Günther Lütjens, while serving as fleet commander, embarked on board the battleship Bismarck and also tactically commanded the ship during the Battle of the Denmark Strait. Lütjens was later killed on the Bismarck, making him the only fleet commander to die in active combat.[1]

The fleet commander was not, by design, an operational officer, and thus could only advise the Navy group commanders who served as the operational heads of the various at-sea German forces. For this reason, there was significant jurisdictional conflict between the fleet commander and the group commanders. In mid 1943, the Kriegsmarine leadership attempted to solve this problem by merging the office of fleet commander with that of a group commander. A new position, Marinegruppenkommando Nord und Flottenchef was then created giving the fleet commander operational control over deployed forces in the North Sea.[2]

The fleet commander was also technically the senior officer to the commander of submarine forces (Befehlshaber der U-Boote); however, in this capacity Karl Dönitz operated with near total independence, including the tactical deployment of his U-boats with little regard for the wishes of either the fleet or group commanders.[3]


The position of fleet commander was disbanded upon the defeat of Nazi Germany in May 1945. In the modern day German Navy, the position of Inspector of the Navy is somewhat equivalent to that of fleet commander.


  1. ^ Gaack, Malte; Carr, Ward, Schlachtschiff Bismarck—Das wahre Gesicht eines Schiffes—Teil 3. Norderstedt, Germany (2011)
  2. ^ Haslop, Dennis, Britain, Germany and the Battle of the Atlantic: A Comparative Study, A&C Black (2013)
  3. ^ Stern, Robert C., Battle Beneath the Waves: U-boats at War, Sterling Publishing (1999)