Operation Berlin was a successful commerce raid performed by the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau between January and March 1941. The commander-in-chief of the operation was Admiral Günther Lütjens, who subsequently commanded the famous cruise of Bismarck and Prinz Eugen.
On 22 January 1941 Scharnhorst and Gneisenau sailed from Kiel on a second attempt to embark on the Atlantic anti-convoy operation codenamed "Berlin". The Commander-in-Chief of the German operation was Admiral Günther Lütjens and his flagship was Gneisenau.
Although every effort had been made to enforce secrecy, the two ships were spotted by a British agent as they steamed through the Great Belt that separates Zealand from the mainland of Denmark. The report was radioed to the Admiralty in London. Admiral John Tovey put to sea with three battleships, eight cruisers and eleven destroyers, hoping to meet Scharnhorst and Gneisenau at a point somewhere south of Iceland.
The British assumpted that the German task force would make the way into the Atlantic through the Iceland-Faroe passage. This was also what Admiral Günther Lütjens originally had planned. But then the German task force sighted two British cruisers. Admiral Lütjens changed course and headed for the Denmark Strait instead of using the originally planned Iceland-Faroe passage.
Operation Berlin ended on 22 Mar 1941 as the fleet made port call at Brest, France. The ships had traveled 17,800 miles during this operation, sinking or capturing 22 enemy ships totaling 113,690 tons.
The Scharnhorst class were the first capital ships, alternatively referred to as battlecruisers or battleships, built for Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine after World War I. The class comprised two vessels: the lead ship Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Scharnhorst was launched first, and so she is considered to be the lead ship by some sources; however, they are also referred to as the Gneisenau class in some other sources, as Gneisenau was the first to be laid down and commissioned. They marked the beginning of German naval rearmament after the Treaty of Versailles. The ships were armed with nine 28 cm (11 in) SK C/34 guns in three triple turrets.