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Reverse side of the above cross showing eight metal loops for stitching the award to the left side of the uniform breast. The Iron Cross (german: Eisernes Kreuz, , abbreviated EK) was a
military decoration Military awards and decorations are distinctions given as a mark of honor for military heroism, meritorious or outstanding service or achievement.United States Department of Defense, DoD Manual 1348.33, 2010, Vol. 3 A decoration is often a medal ...
in the
Kingdom of Prussia The Kingdom of Prussia (german: Königreich Preußen) was a German Monarchy, kingdom that constituted the state of Prussia between 1701 and 1918.Marriott, J. A. R., and Charles Grant Robertson. ''The Evolution of Prussia, the Making of an Empir ...
, and later in the
German Empire The German Empire or the Imperial State of Germany,, officially '.Herbert Tuttle Herbert Tuttle (1846–1894) was an American historian. Biography Herbert Tuttle was born in Bennington, Vermont Bennington is a New England town, town ...
(1871–1918) and
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945, was t ...

Nazi Germany
(1933–1945).
King Frederick William III of Prussia
King Frederick William III of Prussia
established it on 17 March 1813 during the
Napoleonic Wars The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major World war, global conflicts pitting the First French Empire, French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon, Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of Coalition forces of the Napoleonic Wa ...
(EK 1813). The award was backdated to the birthday (10 March) of his late wife,
Queen Louise
Queen Louise
. Louise was the first person to receive this decoration (posthumously). The recommissioned Iron Cross was also awarded during the
Franco-Prussian War The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War,, german: Deutsch-Französischer Krieg often referred to in France as the War of 1870, was a conflict between the Second French Empire The Second French Empire (; officially the French Empire, ...
(EK 1870),
World War I World War I or the First World War, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously known as the Great War or "The war to end war, the war ...

World War I
(EK 1914), and
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved World War II by country, the vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great ...
(EK 1939). The Iron Cross awarded during World War II has a
swastika The swastika symbol, 卐 (''right-facing'' or ''clockwise'') or 卍 (''left-facing'', ''counterclockwise'', or sauwastika), is an ancient religious icon in various Eurasian cultures. It is used as a symbol of divinity and spirituality in Indi ...

swastika
in the center. The Iron Cross was usually a military decoration only, though there were instances awarded to civilians for performing military functions, such as
Hanna Reitsch Hanna Reitsch (29 March 1912 – 24 August 1979) was a German aviator and test pilot. Along with Melitta von Stauffenberg, she flight tested many of Germany's new aircraft during World War II and received many honors. She set more than 4 ...

Hanna Reitsch
, who received the Iron Cross 2nd Class and Iron Cross 1st Class, and
Melitta Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg Melitta Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg (née Schiller; 3 January 1903 – 8 April 1945) was an aviator An aircraft pilot or aviator is a person who controls the flight of an aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to flig ...
, who received the Iron Cross, 2nd Class, for being civilian test pilots during World War II. The cross symbol's design, black with a white or silver outline, was ultimately derived from the
cross pattée A cross pattée (or ''cross patty'' or ''cross Pate'', known also as a ''cross formée/formy, croix pattée'' or ''Tatzenkreuz'') is a type of Christian cross The Christian cross, seen as a representation of the crucifixion of Jesus on a large ...
of the
Teutonic Order The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem (official names: la, Ordo domus Sanctæ Mariæ Theutonicorum Hierosolymitanorum, german: Orden der Brüder vom Deutschen Haus der Heiligen Maria in Jerusalem), commonly the Te ...
and used by knights on occasions from the 13th century. The Prussian Army black crosses pattée was also used as the symbol of the succeeding
German Army The German Army () is the land component of the armed forces of Federal Republic of Germany, Germany. The present-day German Army was founded in 1955 as part of the newly formed West German ''Bundeswehr'' together with the German Navy, ''Marine'' ...
from 1871 to March–April 1918, when the Balkenkreuz replaced it. In 1956, it was re-introduced as the symbol of the ''
Bundeswehr The ''Bundeswehr'' (, meaning literally: ''Federal Defence'') is the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin , coordinates = , largest_city = capital ...
'', the modern German armed forces (with the "ends" of the white border removed, as in the ''Balkenkreuz'' of 1918).


Black Cross emblem

(1209–1239) The Black Cross (''Schwarzes Kreuz'') is the emblem used by the
Prussian Army The Royal Prussian Army (1701–1919, german: Königlich Preußische Armee) served as the army of the Kingdom of Prussia. It became vital to the development of Brandenburg-Prussia as a European power. The Prussian Army had its roots in the core ...
and Germany's army from 1871 to the present. It was designed on the occasion of the German Campaign of 1813, when
Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia Frederick William III (german: Friedrich Wilhelm III.; 3 August 1770 – 7 June 1840) was king of Prussia Prussia, , Old Prussian: ''Prūsa'' or ''Prūsija'' was a historically prominent Germans, German state that originated in 1525 with Duc ...
commissioned the Iron Cross as the first military decoration open to all ranks, including enlisted men. From this time, the Black Cross was featured on the
Prussian war flag
Prussian war flag
alongside the Black Eagle. It was designed by neoclassical architect
Karl Friedrich Schinkel Karl Friedrich Schinkel (13 March 1781 – 9 October 1841) was a Prussia Prussia, , Old Prussian Distribution of the Baltic tribes, circa 1200 CE (boundaries are approximate). Old Prussian was a Western Baltic language belonging to ...
, based on Friedrich Wilhelm III. The design is ultimately derivative of the black cross used by the
Teutonic Order The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem (official names: la, Ordo domus Sanctæ Mariæ Theutonicorum Hierosolymitanorum, german: Orden der Brüder vom Deutschen Haus der Heiligen Maria in Jerusalem), commonly the Te ...
. This heraldic cross took various forms throughout the order's history, including a
Latin cross A Latin cross or ''crux immissa'' is a type of cross A cross is a geometrical figure consisting of two intersecting lines or bars, usually perpendicular to each other. The lines usually run vertically and horizontally. A cross of oblique l ...

Latin cross
, a
cross potent A cross potent (plural: crosses potent), also known as a crutch cross, is a form of heraldic cross with crossbars at the four ends. In French, it is known as '' croix potencée'', in German as a ''Kruckenkreuz'', all translating to "crutch cross", ...
,
cross fleury 150px, A cross fleury A cross fleury (or flory) is a cross adorned at the ends with flowers in heraldry Heraldry () is a broad term, encompassing the design, display and study of armorial bearings (known as armory), as well as related disciplines, ...
, and occasionally also a
cross pattée A cross pattée (or ''cross patty'' or ''cross Pate'', known also as a ''cross formée/formy, croix pattée'' or ''Tatzenkreuz'') is a type of Christian cross The Christian cross, seen as a representation of the crucifixion of Jesus on a large ...
. When the
Quadriga A () is a car or chariot drawn by four horses abreast and favoured for chariot racing in Classical Antiquity and the Roman Empire until the Late Middle Ages. The word derives from the Latin contraction of , from ' : four, and ' : yoke; The four- ...

Quadriga
of the Goddess of Peace was retrieved from Paris at Napoleon's fall, it was re-established atop Berlin's
Brandenburg Gate The Brandenburg Gate (german: Brandenburger Tor; ) is an 18th-century neoclassical monument in Berlin, built on the orders of Prussia Prussia, , Old Prussian: ''Prūsa'' or ''Prūsija'' was a historically prominent Germans, German state th ...
. An Iron Cross was inserted into Peace's
laurel Laurel may refer to: Plants * Lauraceae, the laurel family * Laurel (plant), including a list of trees and plants known as laurel People * Laurel (given name), people with the given name * Laurel (surname), people with the surname * Laurel (musi ...
wreath A wreath () is an assortment of flowers, Leaf, leaves, fruits, twigs, or various materials that is constructed to form a circle . In English-speaking countries, wreaths are used typically as household ornaments, most commonly as an Christmas d ...

wreath
, making her into a Goddess of Victory. In 1821 Schinkel crowned the top of his design of the National Monument for the Liberation Wars with an Iron Cross, becoming name-giving as
Kreuzberg Kreuzberg (), is a district of Berlin, Germany. It is part of the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg borough located south of Berlin-Mitte, Mitte. During the Cold War era, it was one of the poorest areas of West Berlin, but since German reunification in ...
(cross mountain) for the hill it stands on and, 100 years later, for the
homonymous quarter
homonymous quarter
adjacent to it.Klaus-Dieter Wille, ''Spaziergänge in Kreuzberg'', Berlin: Haude & Spener, 1986, (=Berliner Kaleidoskop: Schriften zur Berliner Kunst- und Kulturgeschichte; vol. 32), p. 21. . The Black Cross was used on the naval and combat flags of the
German Empire The German Empire or the Imperial State of Germany,, officially '.Herbert Tuttle Herbert Tuttle (1846–1894) was an American historian. Biography Herbert Tuttle was born in Bennington, Vermont Bennington is a New England town, town ...
. The Black Cross was used as the German Army symbol until 1915 when a simpler Balkenkreuz replaced it. The ''
Reichswehr The Reichswehr (‘Reich defense’) was the official name of the German armed forces from 1919 to 1935, during the Weimar Republic The Weimar Republic (german: Weimarer Republik ) was the German state from 1918 to 1933, as it existed as ...
'' of the
Weimar Republic The Weimar Republic (german: Weimarer Republik ) was the German state from 1918 to 1933 when it functioned as a federal constitutional republic. The state was officially named the German Reich (german: Deutsches Reich, link=no, label=none), a ...
(1921–35), the ''
Wehrmacht The ''Wehrmacht'' (, ) was the unified armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically authorized and maintained by a sovereign ...
'' of
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945, was t ...

Nazi Germany
(1935–46), and the ''
Bundeswehr The ''Bundeswehr'' (, meaning literally: ''Federal Defence'') is the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin , coordinates = , largest_city = capital ...
'' (1 October 1956 to present) also inherited the use of the emblem in various forms. The traditional design in black is used on armored vehicles and aircraft, while after
German reunification German reunification (german: link=no, Deutsche Wiedervereinigung) was the process in 1990 in which the German Democratic Republic (GDR) became part of the Federal Republic of Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = ...
, a new creation in blue and silver was introduced for use in other contexts.


Medal and ribbon design

The
ribbon A ribbon or riband is a thin band of material, typically cloth but also plastic or sometimes metal, used primarily as decorative binding and tying. Cloth ribbons are made of natural materials such as silk, cotton, and jute and of synthetic mat ...

ribbon
for the 1813, 1870 and 1914 Iron Cross (2nd Class) was black with two thin white bands, the colors of Prussia. The non-combatant version of this award had the same medal, but the black and white colors on the ribbon were reversed. The ribbon color for the 1939 EKII was black/white/red/white/black. Since the Iron Cross was issued over several different periods of German history, it was annotated with the year indicating the era in which it was issued. For example, an Iron Cross from World War I bears the year "1914", while the same decoration from World War II is annotated "1939". The reverse of the 1870, 1914 and 1939 series of Iron Crosses have the year "1813" appearing on the lower arm, symbolizing the year the award was created. The 1813 decoration also has the initials "FW" for King
Friedrich Wilhelm III Frederick William III (german: Friedrich Wilhelm III.; 3 August 1770 – 7 June 1840) was king of the Kingdom of Prussia, Prussia from 1797 to 1840. He ruled Prussia during the difficult times of the Napoleonic Wars. Steering a careful course bet ...

Friedrich Wilhelm III
, while the next two have a "W" for the respective kaisers,
Wilhelm I , signature = Wilhelm_I,_German_Emperor_Signature.svg , religion = Lutheran Lutheranism is one of the largest branches of Protestantism that identifies with the teachings of Martin Luther, a 16th-century German Protestant Reformers, r ...
and
Wilhelm II en, Frederick William Victor Albert , house = Hohenzollern , father = Frederick III, German Emperor , mother = Victoria, Princess Royal , religion = Lutheranism (Prussian Union (Evangelical Christian Church), Prussian United) , signature = ...
. The final version shows a
swastika The swastika symbol, 卐 (''right-facing'' or ''clockwise'') or 卍 (''left-facing'', ''counterclockwise'', or sauwastika), is an ancient religious icon in various Eurasian cultures. It is used as a symbol of divinity and spirituality in Indi ...

swastika
representing the
Nazi Party The Nazi Party, officially the National Socialist German Workers' Party (german: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP), was a far-right political party in Germany active between 1920 and 1945, that created and supported th ...
instead of a letter for a German monarch. There was also the "1957" issue, a replacement medal for holders of the 1939 series which substituted an oak-leaf cluster for the banned swastika. When the Iron Cross was reauthorized for World War I in 1914, it was possible for individuals who had previously been awarded one in 1870 to be subsequently granted another. These recipients were recognized with the award of a clasp featuring a miniaturized 1914 Iron Cross on a metal bar. The award was quite rare, since by this time there were few in service who held the 1870 Iron Cross. In World War II it was also possible for a holder of the 1914 Iron Cross to be awarded a second or higher grade of the 1939 Iron Cross. In such cases, a " 1939 Clasp" (') would be worn on the original 1914 Iron Cross. For the 1st Class award, the Spange appears as an eagle with the date "1939". This was pinned to the uniform above the original medal. Although they were two separate awards in some cases the holders soldered them together. A cross has been the symbol of Germany's armed forces (now the ') since 1871.


Original awards of the Wars of Liberation

On 17 March 1813 King Frederick William III of Prussia, who had fled to non-occupied Breslau (today
Wrocław Wrocław (; german: Breslau ; sli, Brassel; cs, Vratislav), ''Wratislavia''. is a city in southwestern Poland and the largest city in the historical region of Silesia. It lies on the banks of the River Oder in the Silesian Lowlands of Central ...

Wrocław
), established the military decoration of the Iron Cross, backdated to 10 March (the late 's birthday).Michael Nungesser. ''Das Denkmal auf dem Kreuzberg von Karl Friedrich Schinkel'', ed. on behalf of the Bezirksamt Kreuzberg von Berlin as catalogue of the exhibition "Das Denkmal auf dem Kreuzberg von Karl Friedrich Schinkel" in the Kunstamt Kreuzberg / Künstlerhaus Bethanien Berlin, between 25 April and 7 June 1987, Berlin: Arenhövel, 1987, p. 29. . The Iron Cross was awarded to soldiers during the Wars of Liberation against Napoleon. Before a soldier could be awarded with the Iron Cross 1st Class, he needed to have been decorated with the Iron Cross 2nd Class. It was first awarded to Karl August Ferdinand von Borcke on 21 April 1813.Borcke's Biography
The first form of the Iron Crosses 1st Class were stitched in ribbon to the left uniform breast. By order of 1 June 1813, the 2nd form was created in cast iron with silver borders, and 8 loops on the reverse, to be fixed to the left uniform breast. In 1817 a total of 670 chevaliers had received the Iron Cross 1st Class.


The recommissioned Iron Cross for the Franco-Prussian War

King Wilhelm I of Prussia authorized further awards on 19 July 1870, during the
Franco-Prussian War The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War,, german: Deutsch-Französischer Krieg often referred to in France as the War of 1870, was a conflict between the Second French Empire The Second French Empire (; officially the French Empire, ...
. Recipients of the 1870 Iron Cross who were still in service in 1895 were authorized to purchase and wear above the cross a ' ("Jubilee clip"), a 25-year clasp consisting of the numerals "25" on three oak leaves.


World War I

Emperor Wilhelm II reauthorized the Iron Cross on 5 August 1914, at the start of
World War I World War I or the First World War, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously known as the Great War or "The war to end war, the war ...

World War I
. During these three periods, the Iron Cross was an award of the Kingdom of Prussia, although—given Prussia's pre-eminent place in the
German Empire The German Empire or the Imperial State of Germany,, officially '.Herbert Tuttle Herbert Tuttle (1846–1894) was an American historian. Biography Herbert Tuttle was born in Bennington, Vermont Bennington is a New England town, town ...
formed in 1871—it tended to be treated as a generic German decoration. The 1813, 1870, and 1914 Iron Crosses had three grades: * Iron Cross 2nd Class (', or EKII) * Iron Cross 1st Class (', or EKI) *
Grand Cross of the Iron Cross The Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (german: Großkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) was a decoration intended for victorious generals of the Prussian Army and its Alliance, allies. It was the second highest class of the Iron Cross, following the Star of th ...
(', often simply ') Although the obverse of the medals of each class was identical, the manner in which each was worn differed. The Iron Cross 1st Class employed a pin or screw posts on the back of the medal, and was worn on the left side of the recipient's uniform, like the original 1813 version. The Iron Cross 2nd Class, and the larger Grand Cross, were suspended from different ribbons: the Grand Cross from a neck ribbon, the 2nd Class from a ribbon on the chest. The usual display of the 2nd Class version was as a ribbon through one of the button holes in the recipient's tunic. The Grand Cross was intended for senior generals of the
Prussian Prussia, , Old Prussian: ''Prūsa'' or ''Prūsija'' was a historically prominent Germans, German state that originated in 1525 with Duchy of Prussia, a duchy centered on the Prussia (region), region of Prussia on the southeast coast of the Balt ...
or (later) the German Army. An even higher decoration, the
Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross The Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (german: Stern zum Großkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) was the highest military decoration of the Kingdom of Prussia and the German Empire. It was considered a senior decoration to the Grand Cross of the I ...

Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross
(also called the ''Blücher Star''), was awarded only twice, to
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, Fürst von Wahlstatt (; 16 December 1742 – 12 September 1819), ''Graf (male) or (female) is a historical title A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in certain contexts. It ...

Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher
in 1813 and to
Paul von Hindenburg Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg (; abbreviated ; 2 October 1847 – 2 August 1934) was a German general and statesman who led the Imperial German Army The Imperial German Army (1871–1919), officially referred to a ...

Paul von Hindenburg
in 1918. A third award was planned for the most successful German general during World War II, but was not made after the defeat of Germany in 1945. The Iron Cross 1st Class and the Iron Cross 2nd Class were awarded without regard to rank. One had to possess the 2nd Class already in order to receive the 1st Class (though in some cases both could be awarded simultaneously). The egalitarian nature of this award contrasted with those of most other German states (and indeed of many other European monarchies), where military decorations were awarded based on the rank of the recipient. For example,
Bavaria Bavaria (; german: Bayern, , officially the Free State of Bavaria (german: Freistaat Bayern, link=no, ; bar, Freistoot Bayern, link=no), is a federal state A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity characterize ...

Bavaria
n officers received various grades of that Kingdom's Military Merit Order ('), while enlisted men received various grades of the Military Merit Cross ('). Prussia did have other orders and medals which it awarded on the basis of rank, and even though the Iron Cross was intended to be awarded without regard to rank, officers and NCOs were more likely to receive it than junior enlisted soldiers. During World War I, approximately 218,000 EKIs, 5,196,000 EKIIs and 13,000 non-combatant EKIIs were awarded. Exact numbers of awards are not known, since the Prussian military archives were destroyed during World War II. The multitude of awards reduced the status and reputation of the decoration. Among the holders of the 1914 Iron Cross 2nd Class and 1st Class was
Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was the dictator of Nazi Germany, Germany from 1933 to 1945. Adolf Hitler's rise to power, He rose to power as the leader of the Nazi Party, becoming Chan ...

Adolf Hitler
, who served as an Austrian citizen in the Bavarian Army with the rank of ' (lance-corporal), he received these medals for showing bravery on the field of battle. Most photographs of Hitler show him wearing his EKI in standard fashion on his left breast.


Allied Propaganda versions

In 1914, a variety of very crude anti-German propaganda versions of the Iron Cross were created by the Allies, and sold to raise money for the War effort and the relief of Belgian refugees. One was inscribed "FOR KULTUR" in raised letters, another "FOR BRUTALITY" . Yet another showed the names of French and Belgian towns attacked or destroyed during the
retreat from Mons The Great Retreat (), also known as the Retreat from Mons, is the name given to the long withdrawal to the River Marne in August and September 1914 by the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and the French Fifth Army, Allied forces on the West ...

retreat from Mons
on the ends of the upper arms of the cross; these included
Rheims Reims ( , also , ; also spelled Rheims in English, Dutch: Riemen) is the most populous city in the Marne (department), Marne department, in the Grand Est region of France. Its population in 2013 was of 182,592 in the city proper (''Commune in ...

Rheims
,
Louvain Leuven (, ) or Louvain (, also , ; german: link=no, Löwen ) is the capital and largest city of the province A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or state. The term derives from the ancient Roman '' provin ...
and
Amiens Amiens (English: or ; ; pcd, Anmien, or ) is a city and Communes of France, commune in northern France, located north of Paris and south-west of Lille. It is the capital of the Somme (department), Somme Departments of France, department i ...

Amiens
on one side, and
Antwerp Antwerp (; nl, Antwerpen ; french: Anvers ) is a city in Belgium and the capital of Antwerp (province), Antwerp province in the Flemish Region. With a population of 520,504,
Antwerp
,
Dinant Dinant () is a Walloon city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedia''. 2nd edition. London: Rout ...

Dinant
and
Ghent Ghent ( ; Dutch language, Dutch: ''Gent'' ; French language, French: ''Gand'' ; traditional English: Gaunt) is a city and a Municipalities of Belgium, municipality in the Flemish Region of Belgium. It is the capital and largest city of the East ...

Ghent
on the other, with the date 1914 on the lower arm, and a central W for Kaiser Wilhelm as on the original. Another commemorated the
raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby The Raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby on 16 December 1914 was an attack by the Imperial German Navy on the British ports of Scarborough, Hartlepool Hartlepool () is a port town in the Borough of Hartlepool, of which it is th ...
, showing the names of these "war atrocities" on the arms of the cross.


World War II

Adolf Hitler restored the Iron Cross in 1939 as a German decoration (rather than Prussian), and continued the tradition of issuing it in various classes. Legally, it is based on the "Enactment for the re-introduction of the Iron Cross" (') of 1 September 1939.Reichsgesetzblatt Teil I
Nr. 159, 1 September 1939, p. 1573.
The Iron Cross of World War II was divided into three main series of decorations with an intermediate category, the
Knight's Cross Knight's Cross (German language The German language (, ) is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and the ...

Knight's Cross
, instituted between the lowest, the Iron Cross, and the highest, the Grand Cross. The Knight's Cross replaced the Prussian ' or "Blue Max". Hitler did not care for the ', as it was a Prussian order that could be awarded only to officers. The ribbon of the medal (2nd class and Knight's Cross) was different from the earlier Iron Crosses as the color red was used in addition to the traditional black and white (black and white were the colors of Prussia, while black, white, and red were the colors of Nazi Germany). Hitler also created the
War Merit Cross The War Merit Cross (german: Kriegsverdienstkreuz) was a state decoration of Nazi Germany Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") officially known as ...

War Merit Cross
as a replacement for the non-combatant version of the Iron Cross. It also appeared on certain Nazi flags in the upper left corner. The sides of the cross were curved, like most original iron crosses.


Iron Cross

The standard 1939 Iron Cross was issued in the following two grades: * Iron Cross 2nd Class (' – abbreviated as EK II or E.K.II.) * Iron Cross 1st Class (' – abbreviated as EK I or E.K.I.) The Iron Cross was awarded for bravery in battle as well as other military contributions in a battlefield environment. The Iron Cross 2nd Class came with a ribbon and the cross itself was worn in one of two different ways: * From the second button in the tunic from the first day after award. * When in formal dress, the entire cross was worn mounted alone or as part of a medal bar. Note that for everyday wear, only the ribbon was worn from the second buttonhole in the tunic. The Iron Cross 1st Class was a pin-on medal with no ribbon and was worn centered on a uniform breast pocket, either on dress uniforms or everyday outfit. It was a progressive award, with the second class having to be earned before the first class and so on for the higher degrees. It is estimated that some four and a half million 2nd Class Iron Crosses were awarded during World War II, and 300,000 of the 1st Class. Thirty-nine women, chiefly female nurses from the German Red Cross were granted the Iron Cross 2nd Class. Example of such women are Elfriede Wnuk, wounded in 1942 on the Eastern Front, Magda Darchniger, decorated in 1942, Marga Droste, who remained at her post in the Wilhelmshaven hospital despite her own wounds during a bombing in 1942, Ilse Schulz and Grete Fock, who served in the African campaign, Liselotte Hensel and Miss Holzmann, who were both decorated in 1943 for bravery during a bombing of Hamburg, and the countess Merlitta Schenk von Stauffenberg, acting as a qualified pilot and a nurse and decorated in August 1943. Other DRK female auxiliaries who received the Iron Cross for acts of bravery are Hanny Weber, Geolinde Münchge, Elfriede Gunia, Ruth Raabe, Ilse Daub, Greta Graffenkamp, Elfriede Muth, Ursula Kogel, Liselotte Schlotterbeck, Rohna von Ceuern, Anna Wohlschütz, and Dr. Elizabeth Potuz. Two non-German female auxiliaries of the German Red Cross were awarded the Iron Cross: Norwegian nurse Anne Gunhild Moxnes in April 1944, and an unknown Belgian nurse in 1942. A young member of the female youth organisation of the Third Reich, Ottilie Stephan, was also awarded the Iron Cross in February 1945 under unknown circumstances. At least two Iron Cross 1st Class recipients were women, test pilot (''Flugkapitän'')
Hanna Reitsch Hanna Reitsch (29 March 1912 – 24 August 1979) was a German aviator and test pilot. Along with Melitta von Stauffenberg, she flight tested many of Germany's new aircraft during World War II and received many honors. She set more than 4 ...

Hanna Reitsch
and in January 1945 German Red Cross sister Else Grossmann. One of the
Muslim Muslims () are people who follow or practice Islam Islam (; ar, اَلْإِسْلَامُ, al-’Islām, "submission o God) is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic monotheistic religion teaching that Muhammad is a Muhammad in Islam, ...

Muslim
SS members to receive the award, SS ' Imam Halim Malkoć was granted the Iron Cross (2nd Class) in October 1943 for his role in suppressing the Villefranche-de-Rouergue mutiny. He, together with several other Bosnian Muslims, was decorated with the EK II personally by Himmler in the days after the mutiny. Because of his Muslim faith, he wore only the ribbon, and not the cross. Two
Jew Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2International Organization for Standardization, ISO 259 is a series of international standards for the romanization of Hebrew, romanization of Hebrew alphabet, Hebrew characters into Latin alphabet, La ...

Jew
ish officers of the
Finnish Army The Finnish Army ( Finnish: ''Maavoimat'', Swedish: ''Armén'') is the land forces branch of the Finnish Defence Forces. The Finnish Army is divided into six branches: the infantry at the Battle of the Somme (July–November 1916) during ...

Finnish Army
, Major and Captain Solomon Klass, and a nurse from the Lotta Svärd organization, were awarded the Iron Cross, but they would not accept them. The Spanish double-agent Juan Pujol García, known to the Germans as and the British as received the 2nd Class Iron Cross, and an
MBEMBE may refer to: Academic qualifications * Master of Bioethics Bioethics is the study of the ethical issues emerging from advances in biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, ...
from
King George VI George VI (Albert Frederick Arthur George; 14 December 1895 – 6 February 1952) was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominion The word Dominion was used from 1907 to 1948 to refer to one of several self-governing colonies of the ...

King George VI
four months later. William Manley is possibly the only recipient of both the Iron Cross and the
Victoria Cross The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest and most prestigious award of the British honours system The British honours system is a means of rewarding individuals' personal bravery, achievement, or service to the United Kingdom The United ...

Victoria Cross
. He was awarded the Iron Cross for service with an ambulance unit in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71.


Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (', often simply ') recognized military valour or successful leadership. The Knight's Cross was divided into five degrees: *Knight's Cross (') *Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves (') *Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (') *Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds (') *Knight's Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds (') In total, 7,313 awards of the Knight's Cross were made. Only 883 received the Oak Leaves; 160 both the Oak Leaves and Swords (including
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of J ...
Admiral
Isoroku Yamamoto was a Japanese Marshal Admiral of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and the commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet during World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, ...

Isoroku Yamamoto
(posthumously)); 27 with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds; and one with the Golden Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds ('
Hans-Ulrich Rudel Hans-Ulrich Rudel (2 July 1916 – 18 December 1982) was a German ground-attack pilot during World War II and a post-war neo-Nazi activist. The most decorated German pilot of the war and the only recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Ir ...
).


Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (1939)

Like the Knight's Cross, the Grand Cross (') was worn suspended from the collar. It was reserved for general officers for "the most outstanding strategic decisions affecting the course of the war". The only recipient during the Second World War was '
Hermann Göring Hermann Wilhelm Göring (or Goering; ; 12 January 1893 – 15 October 1946) was a German political and military leader and a convicted war criminal. He was one of the most powerful figures in the Nazi Party The Nazi Party, officiall ...

Hermann Göring
, who was awarded the decoration on 19 July 1940 for his command of the ', after the
Battle of France The Battle of France, also known as the Fall of France, was the Nazi Germany, German invasion of French Third Republic, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands during the Second World War. On 3 September 1939, French declaration of war ...
in 1940. The medal is a larger version of the Knight's Cross, measuring wide as opposed to about for the Iron Cross and for the Knight's Cross. It was originally intended to have outer edges lined in gold, but this was changed to silver before the award was presented. It was worn with a wide ribbon bearing the same colors as the Knight's Cross and 2nd Class ribbons. The award case was in red leather with the
eagle Eagle is the common name for many large birds of prey Birds of prey, also known as raptors, include species of bird Birds are a group of warm-blooded vertebrates constituting the class (biology), class Aves , characterised by feather ...

eagle
and the swastika outlined in gold. The original Grand Cross presented to Göring (personally by Hitler) was destroyed during an air raid on his Berlin home. Göring had extra copies made, one of them with a
platinum Platinum is a chemical element Image:Simple Periodic Table Chart-blocks.svg, 400px, Periodic table, The periodic table of the chemical elements In chemistry, an element is a pure substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same ...

platinum
frame that he was wearing at the time of his surrender to the allies in 1945.


Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (1939)

140px, Star of the Grand Cross (1939) The Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (also called Iron Cross with Golden Rays) was pinned to the left breast, above the Iron Cross 1st Class. Like the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross, it was for bestowal upon successful general officers. The Star of the Grand Cross was awarded only twice, both to Field Marshals who already held the Grand Cross: in 1815 to for his part in the
Battle of Waterloo The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday, 18 June 1815, near Waterloo, Belgium, Waterloo in Belgium, part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands at the time. A French army under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by two of the ...

Battle of Waterloo
, and in March 1918 to
Paul von Hindenburg Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg (; abbreviated ; 2 October 1847 – 2 August 1934) was a German general and statesman who led the Imperial German Army The Imperial German Army (1871–1919), officially referred to a ...

Paul von Hindenburg
for his conduct of the 1918
Spring Offensive The 1918 Spring Offensive, or '' Kaiserschlacht'' ("Kaiser's Battle"), also known as the Ludendorff Offensive, was a series of German attacks along the Western Front during the First World War World War I or the First World War, often ...
on the
Western FrontWestern Front or West Front may refer to: Military frontiers *Western Front (World War I), a military frontier to the west of Germany *Western Front (World War II), a military frontier to the west of Germany *Western Front (Russian Empire), a major ...

Western Front
. It is often called the Blücher Star ''()'', after its first recipient. A Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross was manufactured in World War II, but never formally instituted or awarded. The only known example, based on the World War I version but with the 1939 Iron Cross centerpiece, was found by Allied forces at the end of the war, and it is now in the museum at
West Point The United States Military Academy (USMA), also known as West Point or simply Army is a four-year United States service academy in West Point, New York West Point is the oldest continuously occupied military post in the United States ...
. It is likely that ' Göring was the intended eventual recipient. He was the only holder of the World War II Iron Cross Grand Cross, and both the previous recipients of the Star had already received the Grand Cross.


Side features of the Iron Cross and entitlements

Officers awarded the Iron Cross were given entitlements and often wore signifying articles, such as an Iron Cross signet ring or cloth Iron Cross which could be affixed to clothing. Also, during the Nazi period, those attaining more than one award, for example, an officer who had attained an Iron Cross 1st Class, an Iron Cross 2nd Class and the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with the Oak Leaves, were entitled to wear a pin which exhibited three Iron Crosses with an exaggerated swastika, thereby consolidating the awards. In some cases,
Minox Minox (pronounced ) is a manufacturer of cameras, known especially for its subminiature camera. The first product to carry the Minox name was a subminiature camera, conceived in 1922, and finally invented and produced in 1936, by Baltic German ...

Minox
miniature cameras were given to people together with an Iron Cross.


Post-World War II

As modern German law prohibits the production of items containing Nazi insignia, the West German government authorized replacement Iron Crosses in 1957 with a trifoliate Oak Leaf Cluster in place of the swastika, similar to the Iron Crosses of 1813, 1870 and 1914, which could be worn by World War II Iron Cross recipients. The 1957 law also authorized de-Nazified versions of most other World War II-era decorations (except those specifically associated with Nazi Party organizations, such as SS Long Service medals, or with the expansion of the German ', such as the medals for the annexation of Austria, the
Sudetenland The Sudetenland (; ; Czech and sk, Sudety) is the historical German name for the northern, southern, and western areas of former Czechoslovakia , , yi, טשעכאסלאוואקיי, , common_name = Czechoslovakia , life_span = 1918– ...

Sudetenland
and the Memel region). After post-war German armed forces began seeing active service, first in
Kosovo Kosovo, or ; sr-Cyrl, Косово officially the Republic of Kosovo,; sr, / is a international recognition of Kosovo, partially recognised state in Southeast Europe. It lies at the centre of the Balkans, occupying an area of , with ...

Kosovo
and then in
Afghanistan Afghanistan (; Pashto/Dari language, Dari: , Pashto: , Dari: ), officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country at the crossroads of Central Asia, Central and South Asia. Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan to the eas ...

Afghanistan
, a campaign began to revive the Iron Cross and other military medals, since Germany had no awards specifically for active military service. In 2007, a petition to the German parliament to revive the Iron Cross decoration was initiated, quickly receiving over 5,000 signatures. On 13 December 2007 parliament decided to let the Ministry of Defence decide the matter. On 6 March 2008, President approved a proposal by Minister of Defense to institute a new award for bravery. The ' (Badge of Honor of the German Armed Forces) series was instituted on 10 October 2008. However, it does not have the traditional form of the Iron Cross (instead more closely resembling the Prussian Military Merit Cross), but is seen as a supplement of existing awards of the '. In the United States, the Iron Cross also became adopted by outlaw bikers, more to signify rebellion or to shock than for a specific political ideology. By the early 2000s, this other use of the Iron Cross had spread from bikers to skateboarders and many extreme sports enthusiasts and became part of the logo of several different clothing companies. Bundeswehr Kreuz Black.svg, Emblem of the (since 1956) File:Iron_Cross_1939_(1957_Version).svg, The 1957 version of the 1939 Iron Cross with trifoliate oak leaves replacing the swastika File:Bundeswehr_Ehrenkreuz.png, Badge of Honor of the German Armed Forces File:Barracuda av dr.jpg, Iron Cross insignia on a UAV Barracuda File:Militärflugplatz Laupheim 12.jpg, Iron Cross insignia on a German Air Force CH-53G in 2015


See also

*
Grand Cross of the Iron Cross The Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (german: Großkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) was a decoration intended for victorious generals of the Prussian Army and its Alliance, allies. It was the second highest class of the Iron Cross, following the Star of th ...
*
Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross The Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (german: Stern zum Großkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) was the highest military decoration of the Kingdom of Prussia and the German Empire. It was considered a senior decoration to the Grand Cross of the I ...

Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross
* Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross * Clasp to the Iron Cross, 1939 Clasp to the 1914 Iron Cross * Orders, decorations, and medals of Imperial Germany * Orders, decorations, and medals of Nazi Germany * Black Cross (Teutonic Order) * Cross pattée * Cross of the Warsaw Uprising (') * ''Oxalis tetraphylla'' (a common name is Iron Cross)


Notes


References

* * * Maerz, Dietrich/Stimson, George "The Iron Cross 1. Class", 2010, * Maerz, Dietrich, "Award Numbers of the Iron Cross of 1939", International Medal Collector, Vol.3-No.4 and Vol. 4-No.s, * Previtera,Stephen Thomas, ''The Iron Time: A History of the Iron Cross'', Second edition 2007, * * Williamson, Gordon, ''The Iron Cross of 1939'', 1997, *


External links


German Ministry of Defence (BMVg) on the Iron Cross.

Iron Cross 1914 (Eisernes Kreuz 1914)
* {{Authority control Military awards and decorations of Nazi Germany Military awards and decorations of Prussia 1813 establishments in Prussia Awards established in 1813 Recipients of the Iron Cross, Cross symbols Courage awards