Otto Ciliax

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Otto Ciliax
Born(1891-10-30)30 October 1891
Neudietendorf, Germany
Died12 December 1964(1964-12-12) (aged 73)
Lübeck-Travemünde, Germany
Allegiance German Empire (to 1918)
 Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch Imperial German Navy
Years of service1910–45
UnitSMS Victoria Louise
SMS Württemberg
SMS Vulkan
SMS Hannover
SM U-52
Commands heldSM UB-96
SM UC-27
T 92
T 107
T 181
T 140
T 145
1st Torpedo-Boat Half-Flotilla
Admiral Scheer
Commander, Battleships
Naval High Command, Norway
Battles/warsWorld War I

Spanish Civil War

World War II

AwardsKnight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Otto Ciliax (30 October 1891 – 12 December 1964) was a German naval officer who served in the navies of the German Empire, the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany. As an admiral during World War II, he commanded the German battleships. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.

Early life and career[edit]

Ciliax was born on 30 October 1891 in Neudietendorf, at the time part of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. He joined the military service of the Imperial German Navy on 1 April 1910 as a Seekadett of "Crew 1910" (the incoming class of 1910). He started his first naval infantry training course with the sea cadet detachment on SMS Victoria Louise on 7 April 1910.[Tr 1] Onboard training on Victory Louise began on 13 May before he was transferred to the Naval Academy Mürwik on 1 April 1911 for the main cadet and officer course.[Tr 2][Tr 3][1] Afterwards, starting on 1 October 1912 he served on the battleship SMS Hannover and was promoted to Leutnant zur See (acting sub-lieutenant/ensign) on 27 September 1913.

World War I[edit]

Ciliax was still serving on Hannover when World War I broke out on 28 July 1914. He was a watch officer on SM U-52 when it sank the cruiser HMS Nottingham on 19 August 1916. After completing submarine commander's training, he was given SM UB-96 in June 1918 and SM UC-27 in September that year.

Between the wars[edit]

He remained with the Reichsmarine after the German collapse of 1918, serving as torpedo boat commander and staff officer, heading the operations department (Operationsabteilung) of the Naval High Command (Oberkommando der Marine) in 1936. In 1936 he was given command of the German cruiser Admiral Scheer (22 September 1936 – 30 October 1938) and served as the Commander of the Sea-Force (Befehlshaber der Seestreitkräfte "Spanien") from 22 March 1938 to 26 June 1938 during the Spanish Civil War. He commanded the German battleship Scharnhorst when war broke out in September 1939.

World War II[edit]

In June 1941 he became Type Commander, Battleships (Befehlshaber der Schlachtschiffe). In this position he commanded Operation Cerberus, better known as "the Channel Dash", when German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen and a number of other smaller vessels were transferred from Brest to their respective home bases in Germany for planned deployment to Norwegian waters in February 1942. Ciliax flew his flag on Scharnhorst. Although the success of the operation was seen as an embarrassment to the British because the ships were able to pass through the English Channel almost undetected (though both Scharnhorst and Gneisenau struck a minefield en route), the transfer from Brest to Germany eliminated the threat they had posed to Allied shipping in the Atlantic. From March 1943 until April 1945 Ciliax was Commander-in-Chief of German naval forces in Norway (Marinekommando Norwegen).[2]


Admiral Otto Ciliax (second from right) during inspection of German naval troops in northern Norway looking at 150 mm gun.


1 April 1910: Seekadett (Midshipman)[4]
15 April 1911: Fähnrich zur See (Officer Cadet) with patent L1[4]
15 April 1912: Fähnrich zur See (Officer Cadet) with patent A[4]
27 September 1913: Leutnant zur See (Ensign or Acting Sub-Lieutenant) with patent B[4]
22 March 1916: Oberleutnant zur See (Lieutenant Junior Grade or Sub-Lieutenant) with patent B[4]
29 June 1920: Kapitänleutnant (Captain Lieutenant) with patent C[4]
1 October 1928: Korvettenkapitän (Corvette Captain)[4]
1 October 1933: Fregattenkapitän (Frigate Captain)[4]
1 July 1935: Kapitän zur See (Captain at Sea)[4]
1 November 1939: Konteradmiral (Rear Admiral)[4]
1 June 1941: Vizeadmiral (Vice Admiral)[4]
1 February 1943: Admiral (Admiral)[4]

Translation notes[edit]

  1. ^ sea cadet detachment —Seekadettendetachement
  2. ^ cadet course—Lehrgang für Fähnriche
  3. ^ officer course—Lehrgang für Offiziere



  1. ^ Dörr 1995, p. 128.
  2. ^ Hildebrand & Henriot 1988, pp. 207–208.
  3. ^ a b c Dörr 1995, p. 129.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Dörr 1995, p. 130.
  5. ^ Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 73.
  6. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 154.
  7. ^ Scherzer 2007, p. 260.


  • Dörr, Manfred (1995). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Überwasserstreitkräfte der Kriegsmarine—Band 1: A–K [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the Surface Forces of the Navy—Volume 1: A–K] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2453-2.
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) [1986]. Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 – The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6.
  • Hildebrand, Hans H.; Henriot, Ernest (1988). A-G. ISBN 3-7648-1499-3. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  • Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8.
  • Potter, John Deane (1982) [1970]. Breakout. Toronto; New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 978-0-553-20749-1.
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Militaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
Military offices
New creation Commander of the German Battleships
16 June 1941 – 2 June 1942
Preceded by
Generaladmiral Hermann Boehm
Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine High Command Norway
March 1943 – April 1945
Succeeded by