The small cruisers Karlsruhe
were among the many ships of this kind build in Germany between 1908 and the outbreak of World War I. They were the last small cruisers which were build with the four-funnel layout, typical for several different classes of small cruisers, and showed no major differences to its predecessors.
Both ships were lost during the war. The Karlsruhe
was used for foreign services since 1914. At the outbreak of the war, the ship was stationed in the Caribbean Sea and was used as a merchant raider. In the following months, she sunk 17 merchant ships with a total of 77834 ts. On 04.11.1914 the ship exploded by an unexplained detonation which cut off the complete bow section while meeting with two supply ships about 200 miles east of Trinidad. Although it was first thought that this was caused by an boiler explosion, it is very likely that high temperatures in the ammo storage caused by warm weather and sea temperatures were the reason.