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Großadmiral Hans von Köster

Großadmiral (English: Grand Admiral) is the German language term for the highest rank of the naval officer corps in the 20th century, especially in the Imperial German Navy (since 1900 as a counterpart to the Generalfeldmarschall of the German Army), the Imperial and Royal Navy (k. u. k.) Kriegsmarine of Austria (but in the rank below Field Marshal) and the Kriegsmarine of the Wehrmacht. A comparable rank in modern navies is that of admiral of the fleet (Royal Navy) or fleet admiral (United States Navy).


Großadmiral Albert Wilhelm Heinrich Prinz von Preußen, Commander-in-Chief of the Baltic Sea Forces in WWI
Erich Johann Albert Raeder, first Generaladmiral of the Kriegsmarine in 1936 (picture), he would also become the first Großadmiral of the Kriegsmarine in 1939.

Imperial German Navy

Before and during World War I, the following were made Großadmirale of the Imperial German Navy (Kaiserliche Marine):

  • King Edward VII of the United Kingdom (26 June 1902)[1]
  • Hans von Koester (28 June 1905; de)
    • subject to patentability; received six months later when he left as fleet chief.
  • King Oscar II of Sweden (13 July 1905 à la suite of the German fleet)
  • Heinrich Prinz von Preußen (4 September 1909; de)
  • Alfred von Tirpitz (27 January 1911; de)
    • Alfred von Tirpitz is an exception, as he was never a fleet chief, but served as state secretary in the Reichsmarineamt (RMA). The Kaiser and the Naval Cabinet (which handled the personnel matters of senior naval officers) supported Tirpitz and, in 1911, elevated him to the rank of Grand Admiral above the heads of the other departments of the Navy – including the commander of the High Seas Fleet, Admiral Henning von Holtzendorff. However, he was only given the “rank and title of Grand Admiral”, but not the patent or rank. He therefore did not receive a Großadmiral's baton, was not allowed to wear the crossed marshal's batons on his shoulder boards, but instead four rank stars (admirals wore three) and was only allowed to fly the state secretary's flag.
  • Henning von Holtzendorff (31 July 1918; de), without patent

K. u. k. Kriegsmarine

The Austrian Großadmirale were all members of the Imperial families (honorary ranks), except for Anton Haus, the commander of the Austro-Hungarian Navy for part of World War I:

  • 1911: Karl Stephan Erzherzog von Österreich (1860–1933)
  • 12 May 1916: Anton Haus (1851–1917)
    • The first and only regular holder of the rank of Grand Admiral was Anton Haus as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. However, his successors in this office no longer achieved this rank.
  • 9 October 1916: Heinrich Prinz von Preußen (1862–1929)
  • 1 November 1916: Kaiser Karl I of Austria (1887–1922; de)
  • 22 February 1917: Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany (1859–1941)

Kriegsmarine of the Wehrmacht

Großadmiral shoulder board.jpg Großadmiral was the most senior rank of the Kriegsmarine, immediately senior to General Admiral. There were no more Grand Admirals until 1939. Only two men were elevated to Großadmirale by Adolf Hitler:

  • Erich Raeder, then Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine, was made a Großadmiral on 1 April 1939.
  • Karl Dönitz, commander of the U-boat fleet, was made a Großadmiral on 30 January 1943 upon succeeding Raeder as Commander-in-Chief.


The General Admiral, also Admiral General (German: Generaladmiral), was the highest military commander in the navy at the time of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation; the Dutch, Danish, Swedish and Imperial Russian navies also knew this rank. It was reintroduced to the Kriegsmarine of the Wehrmacht as the second highest rank ahead of full admiral. He corresponded to the colonel general (Generaloberst) in the army and air force and the SS-Oberst-Gruppenführer of the Waffen SS. On 20 April 1936, Erich Raeder, Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine since June 1935, was appointed Generaladmiral by Adolf Hitler as the first admiral. Karl Dönitz was an exception in January 1943 when, due to the war, he was promoted directly from admiral to Großadmiral.

List of General Admirals (last rank)

  1. Conrad Albrecht (1880–1969), on 1 April 1939
  2. Alfred Saalwächter (1883–1945), on 1 January 1940
  3. Rolf Carls (1885–1945), on 19 July 1940
  4. Hermann Boehm (1884–1972), on 1 April 1941
  5. Karl Witzell (1884–1976), on 1 April 1941
  6. Otto Schultze (1884–1966), on 31 August 1942
  7. Wilhelm Marschall (1886–1976), on 1 February 1943
  8. Otto Schniewind (1887–1964), on 1 March 1944
  9. Walter Warzecha (1891–1956), on 1 March 1944
  10. Oskar Kummetz (1891–1980), on 16 September 1944
  11. Hans-Georg von Friedeburg (1895–1945), on 1 May 1945


  1. Latest intelligence – The German Emperor and the King, "The Times", No. 36806. London. 28 June 1902. p. 5