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Otto Ciliax
File:Otto Ciliax.jpg
Born (1891-10-30)30 October 1891
Died 12 December 1964(1964-12-12) (aged 73)
Place of birth Neudietendorf
Place of death Lübeck-Travemünde
Allegiance  German Empire (to 1918)
 Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch  Kaiserliche Marine
Years of service 1911–1945
Rank Admiral
Unit SMS Victoria Louise
SMS Hannover
SM U-52
Commands held battleship Scharnhorst
Commander of the German Battleships

World War I
Spanish Civil War
World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Otto Ciliax (30 October 1891 – 12 December 1964) was an admiral in the German Navy. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (German language: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.


Otto Ciliax joined the military service of the Imperial German Navy on 1 April 1910 as a Seekadett. He completed a basic training course on board of SMS Victoria Louise before transferring to the Naval Academy Mürwik. Afterwards, starting on 1 October 1912 he served on the battleship SMS Hannover and was promoted to Leutnant zur See (second lieutenant) on 27 September 1913.

As the Watch-Officer of SM U-52 in World War I he sank the cruiser HMS Nottingham. He was a former captain of Scharnhorst. In February 1942, he commanded Operation Cerberus, better known as "the Channel Dash", when Germany's two 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. 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, that dissipated until Scharnhorst's chase for Convoy JW 55B, which eventually culminated in the Battle of North Cape and her demise at the hands of HMS Duke of York (17).

Further distinction eluded him for the remainder of World War II.


Reference in the Wehrmachtbericht

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
Friday, 13 February 1942 Am 12. Februar kam es im Zuge von Operationen deutscher Seestreitkräfte im Kanal sowie in der westlichen Nordsee zu Gefechtsberührungen mit englischen Streitkräften. Durch den unter Führung des Vizeadmirals Ciliax stehenden Verband, der aus den Schlachtschiffen "Scharnhorst", "Gneisenau" und dem Kreuzer "Prinz Eugen" bestand, wurde nach der bisherigen Meldungen ein englischer Zerstörer versenkt und ein weiterer in Brand geschossen.[5] Combat between German sea forces and British forces occurred on 12 February during operations in the Channel as well as in the western North Sea. According to current information, the task force under the command of Vice Admiral Ciliax consisting of the battleships "Scharnhorst", "Gneisenau" and the cruiser "Prinz Eugen" sank a British destroyer and damaged another.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Dörr 1995, p. 129.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Dörr 1995, p. 130.
  3. Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 73.
  4. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 154.
  5. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939-1945 Band 2, p. 33.
  • Dörr, Manfred (1995) (in German). 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]. Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2453-2. 
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) (in German). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtsteile [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]. Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6. 
  • Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001) (in German). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2]. Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8. 
  • Range, Clemens (1974). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Kriegsmarine [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the Navy]. Stuttgart, Germany: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 978-3-87943-355-1. 
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007) (in German). 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]. Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. 
  • (in German) Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, 1. Januar 1942 bis 31. Dezember 1943 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 2, 1 January 1942 to 31 December 1943]. München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. 

External links

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
Admiral Theodor Krancke

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