Battle cruisers of the Scharnhorst class had a displacement of 32,000 tons and a speed of 31 knots, but carried only 11-inch guns.
On the other hand, British battle cruisers like the Renown had a displacement of only 26,000 tons, a speed of 32 knots, but 15-inch guns.
Why were the German battlecruisers larger and more heavily armored than their British counterparts, about the same speed, but carrying lighter guns?
I thought the idea of battle cruisers was for them to be as heavily gunned as battleships, but faster, with a sacrifice of size and armor protection as the offset. But the Scharnhorst was larger but lighter gunned than the British equivalents. The British classified the two German ships as "battleships". They were, in fact, only slightly lighter than the Nelson class battleship, which, however, had 16-inch guns. The two German ships were also much lighter than the newer but slower King George V battleships (which the Germans could not have known about).
This makes even less sense when one realizes that the Germans also built pocket battleships that had two-thirds of the firepower (six 11-inch guns vs. nine) of the battlecruisers, but were otherwise much closer in size to the British heavy cruisers that they were supposedly the equivalent of, due to the limitations imposed by the Versailles Treaty. Also, in "Mein Kampf," Adolf Hitler himself expressed a preference for German ships that were more heavily gunned than their British equivalents so they could win the "single combats" he hoped would ensue as a result of German attacks on Allied shipping.* The pocket battleships met this criterion, the battle cruisers did not. The Germans also built two battleships, the Bismarck and Tirpitz, that were superior to any single British battleship.
Or did the lighter 11-inch guns make the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau seem less threatening to the British and others so that there was a "deception" element involved?
*During the war of 1812, the Americans won a number of notable victories because their ships were heavier than their British equivalents. That is, while a British man-of-war could beat an American frigate, a British frigate would be an underdog against a supposedly comparable American ship.