The heavy cruisers of the Kriegsmarine were a result of the Washington Fleet Treaty of 1921, so called "Washington Cruisers". Their displacement was not to exceed 10.000 tons and their main artillery was limited to 8" (20,3 cm) guns, but in reality they were up to 60% bigger than allowed.
Between 1935 and 1937 the keels of five of this ships were laid down which belonged to two slightly different classes of ships: The Admiral Hipper
and her sister Ship Blücher
, the improved second batch consisting of the Prinz Eugen
. The last two were originally planned to be big CLs with an armament of twelve 15 cm guns, but due to the lack of guns and turrets and the threat of a new class of Soviet cruisers, the ships were built as additional ships of the Prinz Eugen
design. Those ships were designed with the idea of commerce war in mind, they should attack allied merchant shipping and evade allied warships, but it soon got obvious that they were not ideal for this task. With their high-pressure steam engine their fuel consumption was too high and their operational range was not big enough to be used in the North Atlantic. In addition, the complicated engine construction often broke down. Of the five ships, only three got completed at all.
The Admiral Hipper
was destroyed by her own crew in the final days of the war.