ORIGINAL: Ian R
Operationally their achievement was impressive - but strategically of course it was a defeat.
I'm not sure that is entirely correct, at least looking at the surface fleet in isolation.
Early war sea lane raiding activities kept many many more RN (and various dominion ships) tied up than raiders, who managed to sink a fair tonnage. For sure, there were losses - Graf Spee, Bismarck, and many AMCs, but you can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs (BC Hood, & CL Sydney come to mind).
The Scandinavian invasion operation was carried out effectively.
Later, the 'fleet in being' , consisting mostly of Tirpitz, Scharnhorst (before North Cape) and the Lutzow & Hipper (decommissioned in early 1943, with other vessels in various damaged states effectively decommissioned, or operating in the Baltic) tied down the RN home fleet, and attracted a not inconsiderable amount of air force effort that could have been applied elsewhere.
The U-boat war was however a strategic defeat, driven mostly by technology - the VLR B-24s, and the RN ability to re-route convoys around the U-boats based on code breaking - but also by superior OR.
Well we can agree to disagree. I can't see that any of what you wrote negated my comment that this was a strategic defeat for the Kriegsmarine. In 1940 - following some limited success - Raeder had hoped he could use his surface ships to attack the sea lanes and that is what Gneisenau, Scharnhorst and Prinz Eugen were in France for.
But of course their position soon became untenable and far from being the hunters, they became the hunted, and it was eventually realised the Luftwaffe did not have the units to spare that were required to keep the Kriegsmarine safe. Hence exit three ships stage right, scurrying back to Germany to take up a defensive role as Hitler started to fret more and more about Norway and his northern flank.
Yes, the Germans were able to deploy most of the ships at some time or other as part of a fleet in being, and this kept the RN from reinforcing the Med or the Indian Ocean. But that was a bonus and not the point of the strategic withdrawal - and certainly not what Raeder had in mind for his big beasts.....
England expects that every man will do his duty. Horatio Nelson October 1805