German ship canal built across the isthmus of Schleswig-Holstein, 1887–95, to link the Baltic and North Seas. It extends for 98 kilometres (61 mls.) from Holtenau, at Kiel Harbour on the Baltic, to Brunsbüttelkoog at the mouth of the Elbe River. Known when it was built as the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal, its construction was a strategic move by the German emperor to link the principal German naval bases of Kiel and Wilhelmshaven, and it was designed to take the largest warships then in existence. The launching in 1906 of the first British Dreadnought, a new type of battleship, negated the strategic purpose of the canal, since all navies, including that of Germany, were forced to follow suit and build the new type, and the canal was not at first capable of taking them. However, it was enlarged between 1907 and 1914 and is currently 103 metres (338 ft) long and 11 metres (37 ft) deep. After the First World War (1914–18) it was, for all intents and purposes, internationalized by the Treaty of Versailles (1919), though its administration was left in German hands. In 1936 Hitler repudiated the terms under which it was run, but after the Second World War (1939–45) freedom of navigation was again guaranteed.
Subjects: Maritime History.