The light cruiser Emden was a German warship of the Reichsmarine of the Weimar Republic and later of the Kriegsmarine. She was the third German warship named after the city of Emden, after the two small cruisers Emden (commissioned in 1909) and Emden (commissioned in 1916).
The Chief of the Admiralty issued the directive for design and planning work for the first German cruiser replacement after the 1919 Treaty of Versailles in 1920, and the first construction installment of RM 25 million out of a total construction cost of RM 120 million estimated at the time was included in the budget for 1921 in October 1920. The outline of the hull for the first major German warship, which was almost entirely welded, was based on the last cruisers of the Kaiserliche Marine, the Cöln class. Originally, it had even been hoped to use one of the unfinished hulls of the Cöln class, but this was forbidden on the part of the Naval Interallied Commission of Control (NIACC – part of the Interallied Military Control Commission IMCC). Of the ships then to be demolished, however, it was possible to utilize some parts for the new construction.
On January 7, 1925, the Emden was launched at the Reichsmarinewerft Wilhelmshaven. The construction period had been delayed by financing problems due to the hyperinflation of 1922 and 1923 and difficulties in procuring materials, which is why the total construction costs can no longer be stated with certainty. Added to this were the changes to the design that became necessary as a result of manufacturing difficulties in industry and the objection of the Military Control Commission IMKK to the planned twin turrets.The original construction plan called for eight 15cm guns in four twin mounts and would have made the cruiser one of the most modern of its time. However, the Treaty of Versailles prohibited the development of new weapons systems, including new gun turrets. Since the German Navy, like most others, had not used twin turrets for small-caliber guns up to that time, all existing turret designs were for 21-cm caliber or larger, making them too heavy for a cruiser, which also was prohibited by the Treaty of Versailles from displacing more than 6,000 tons. This necessitated a redesign with much less effective individual guns, giving the Emden an appearance very similar to her predecessors. The cruiser was ceremonially commissioned by the Reichsmarine on October 15, 1925.
On September 4, 1939, the Emden was damaged at the foredeck by a downed British Bristol Blenheim bomber at Wilhelmshaven. There were nine dead and twenty wounded. In 1940, the Emden was part of the battleship convoy that entered the Oslo Fjord with Army troops aboard during Unternehmen Weserübung on April 8, during which the heavy cruiser Blücher was attacked and sunk by the fortress Oscarsborg. On April 10, she moored at Oslo, where she acted as an intelligence center for all three branches of the Wehrmacht until June 7. She was then transferred to Swinemünde to be reassigned to training duty.
A conversion to eight 15-cm L/50s in twin turrets of the 1936 destroyer, planned for 1940, with a simultaneous reinforcement of the anti-aircraft armament by one 8.8-cm and two 3.7-cm anti-aircraft guns, was not carried out due to the wartime situation.
Since wartime service was still out of the question, further years of service as a training ship continued. After a period in the shipyard from November 1940 to 15 February 1941, she was again ready for action. On 26 and 27 September 1941, she supported the landing operations on the Baltic Islands, firing about 600 15-cm caliber shells at the Soviet coastal batteries near Cape Ristna on Ösel together with the light cruiser Köln. She then served again as a school cruiser and lay in dockyard at Wilhelmshaven from June to November 1942. From 19 to 21 September, 1 to 2 October, and 5 to 6 October 1944, she participated in mining operations in the Skagerrak. On 9 December 1944, she briefly moored in the Oslofjord. On 25 December 1944, she entered Königsberg, where she was to be overhauled at the Schichau shipyard.
On January 23, 1945, the order to sail was given due to the approach of the Red Army. With the coffins of Hindenburg and his wife transferred from the Tannenberg Memorial on board, she was towed by icebreakers to Pillau. After the coffins were loaded onto the Pretoria and engine turbine service was possible, she sailed from Pillau on 1 February 1945 and arrived in Kiel on 6 February with about a thousand refugees for continued shipyard lay-up. There she was badly damaged by bomb hits on April 9/10. On April 14, she was towed into Heikendorf Bay with a 15-degree port angle and grounded. Decommissioning followed on April 26. On 3 May 1945, under the command of Kapitänleutnant Helmut Kummer, the Emden was blown up in Heikendorf Bay, and her remains were demolished in 1948.