The Fate of the Deutschland Class Pocket Battleships
The Graf Spee was scuttled after the Battle of the River Plate, for although she performed well and badly damaged a British heavy cruiser, when she put into the neutral port of Montevideo for repairs her captain, Langsdorff, believed that he would be overwhelmed by superior forces upon leaving harbor. In order to save the lives of his crewmen, he ordered the Graf Spee scuttled in the harbor.
Concerning the conduct of the Graf Spee during its months at sea while raiding British merchant shipping: no merchant sailor was killed on any of the nine ships that fell victim to the Graf Spee, and of those kept prisoner on the pocket battleship herself all reported that they were treated well by Captain Langsdorff and his crew. Only a single instance of human kindness amidst all the horror of that war, but one that should not be forgotten.
Admiral Scheer made it through the majority of the war intact, and operated from the Barents Sea north of the Soviet Union all the way into the Indian Ocean, ravaging British shipping along the way. One of the most successful of the surface raiders to put to sea, the Scheer ended the war in the Baltic, providing fire support to the embattled German troops surrounded in the Courland pocket and later participating as a repatriation ship evacuating German soldiers and civilians from East Prussia. In April 1945 a raid of hundreds of Allied bombers destroyed the vessel in port.
The Deutschland, renamed Lutzow, spent most of the war in the Baltic, and was scuttled in port before the advancing Soviet Army could capture her intact. Later raised by the Soviets and added to the Baltic Fleet, she was eventually scuttled in 1947