class was part of the major German fleet building program that started in the final years of the 19th century. Being very similar in armament and armor protection to their predecessors, the Kaiser Friedrich
class, those ships and their successors formed the core of the german battle fleet until the arrival of the first modern battleships, the Nassau
class in 1909.
The very maneuverable ships were already outdated at the outbreak of World War I and were activly used only in the first years. Until 1916, all five were used for fleet services, Schwaben was mainly used as artillery training ship up to 1911 when the Wettin took over this role until 1914. In 1916, all of them were removed from active fleet service.
Until 1920, the Zähringen
was used as a training ship and then laid down as a hulk for six years. In 1926 it was converted into a remote controlled target ship and used in this role unit 1944 when it burned out on 18.12.1944. On 26.03.1945 the wreck was scuttled and broken down in 1949 and 1950.