KMS Deutschland (later becoming the KMS Lutzow) was the lead ship of her class first ordered in 1928 and serving in the German Kriegsmarine before and during World War 2. Her original planning teams went in two directions - the class would be a heavy-armed monitor used for coastal defenses or as a fast cruiser-type ship with long range, and less armor. At this time France was seen as the most probable enemy so the second version was decided upon to inevitably prey on her merchant shipping.
The size and characteristics of an armored ship were limited by the Treaty of Versailles signed after World War 1, severely restricting Germany's war-making capabilities. The German Navy was therefore limited to 15,000 men, 6 battleships (each with a 10,000 ton displacement limit), 6 cruisers, 6 destroyers and no submarines. The British initially named this new class of ship as "pocket battleships" (Westentaschen-Schlachtschiffe), since they were essentially equal to cruisers of the day but notably outgunned these vessels.
A number of technical innovations, including the use of welding instead of rivets, were used in construction of these new German vessels. This construction technique proved beneficial for it reduced the type's weight. The use of new diesel engines instead of heavy oil engines made the hull even lighter. Deutschland was designed from the outset to be overweight despite the treaty limitations set forth. The German government made a habit of always falsifying new-build specifications, in this case indicating the vessel was only weighing 10,000 tons - just at the treaty's allowable limit. The Kriegsmarine reclassified this new breed of ship as heavy cruisers in February 1940. The concept behind this approach provided for a ship that was faster and more powerful than would-be enemy ships she would face such as like the HMS Hood, HMS Renown and HMS Repulse and more powerful than faster ship classes like light and heavy cruisers of the day. In a sense, this was a sound tactic in 1930.
At the Deutsche Werke shipyard in Kiel, construction began in 1929 and in 1931, she was officially launched with President von Hindenburg in attendance. Taking her maiden voyage in May 1932, Deutschland became the lead ship of her class but lacked the distinctive high conning tower, bridge, and masts of contemporary ships of the era. Between 1936 and 1939, during the Spanish Civil War, Deutschland was deployed to the Spanish coast in support of Franco's Nationalists. During one of these deployments in May 1937, Deutschland was attacked by two Republican bombers with 31 German sailors killed and 101 wounded. The dead German sailors were first taken to Gibraltar and buried on Spanish soil but, on Hitler's orders, these bodies were exhumed, loaded onto the Deutschland, and brought back to Germany for a publicized military funeral.
After the start of World War II, Adolf Hitler feared that the loss of a ship with the grand name of "Deutschland" would have a considerably negative impact on the German people's morale so the ship was renamed Lutzow after a Prussian Lieutenant General, this occurring in November of 1939. In April of that year, Lutzow participated in the invasion of Norway where she followed the cruiser Blucher into the Oslofjord for the purpose to capture the Norwegian King and his government. At the Battle of Drobak Sound, the small German fleet had to sail past the aging fortress battery of guns (each some forty years old) leading the Germans to disregard their defensive value. Unknown to the Germans, however, was a torpedo battery buried withn the fortress. As the Blucher passed the fortress defenses the Norwegians fired their torpedoes, sinking a cruiser. This action saved the Norwegian king and government from being taken captive in the first hours of the invasion until they could enact their escape to Britain. While Lutzow made her escape, the fortress managed to score three hits against her, knocking out the aft Bruno 28-centimetre (11 in) gun turret. After the German squadron had retreated out of Oscarsborg's range, Lutzow used her forward Anton turret to bombard the defenders from a range of 11 kilometers. The fortress was then bombed for good measure by the Luftwaffe on the same day, though no Norwegian casualties were reported.
Lutzow then returned to Germany for repairs and a refitting before leaving on a raiding mission into the Atlantic Ocean. Before she could make her scheduled run she was torpedoed by the British submarine HMS Spearfish in the Skagerrak north of Denmark. The torpedo struck the stern behind the torpedo blister protection nearly ripping off her entire stern. She was forced to Germany once again for repairs - keeping her out of action until the spring of 1941.
Patrolling in the northern Atlantic in June Lutzow was once again torpedoed - this time by an RAF Bristol Beaufort torpedo bomber - resulting in major damage and forcing yet another return to the port of Kiel in Germany for repairs. In December, she was present at the Battle of the Barents Sea. The battle was what Lutzow was built for in the "stronger-than-faster" ship concept. The German force was strong with the heavy cruiser KMS Admiral Hipper and pocket battleship Lutzow. The quarry was the Allied convoy JW51B on its way to deliver supplies to the USSR and protected by now fewer than six British destroyers. Hitler saw the battle of the surface raiders in the Barents Sea as the perfect mission for success. The battle took place in the Polar night with both sides reportedly having difficulty in recognizing one another. Each side, fearing torpedo attacks, continually broke off their attacks until the Germans retreated for good. British Force R shadowed the German ships as they carried on back to port. Upon the news, Hitler was infuriated at the outcome of the battle and decided not to increase the surface fleet, instead choosing to boost his fleet of U-boat submarines and make them his main threat to enemy shipping.
Lutzow took part in a variety of minor encounters during the next year. In September of 1944 in the Baltic Sea, she fired upon land targets in support of the retreating German Wehrmacht, a service she would continue to provide for several more months. Near Swinemunde, Germany in April 1945, Lutzow was again attacked by the RAF. RAF elements dropped a number of six-ton "Tallboy" bombs with three hitting Lutzow while she was still moored. After several enormous explosions, she sank to the bottom. Despite her damage, Lutzow was raised and repaired. From then on, she continued to provide artillery support for the German army as a mobile off-shore gun platform. KMS Lutzow was finally scuttled by her crew on May 4th, 1945 - quite the major disappointment to the ego and morale of the Kriegsmarine.
After the war, the Soviet Navy raised her and used her as a target ship. She was sunk for the last time in the Baltic Sea in 1949 by this action.