1939 Iron Cross 1st & 2nd class

1939 Iron Cross 1st & 2nd class

German officer awarded two iron crosses

German officer awarded with two iron crosses.

On the first day of a new war – which will later be called the Second World War – Adolf Hitler for the fourth time revived the order (One of the most famous German badge), which was once founded by King Frederick William. Thus, the Iron Cross became the only order that the Third Reich received from the German Empire (or rather, from Prussia), even the very highly valued Order Pour le Merite was not awarded with such an honor. (Moreover, we note that Pour le Merite exists in modern Germany, however, it has turned from a military award into a purely civilian one.) Published on September 2, 1939 in the Imperial Journal of Laws (Reichsgesetzblatt) No. 159 on page 1573, the decree of the Führer and Reich Chancellor read as follows :

The badge below are part of my personal collection.

“Decree on the reconstruction of the Iron Cross. After I decided to call on the German people to defend the homeland against the enemies threatening it, I restore the Order of the Iron Cross reminiscent of the heroic struggle of the sons of Germany in previous major wars in the name of defending the homeland.

Item 1

The Iron Cross has the following degrees and award sequence: Iron Cross 2nd class,

1st Class Iron Cross

Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross,

The Great Cross of the Iron Cross.

Item 2

(1) The Iron Cross is awarded exclusively for special courage in the face of the enemy and for outstanding achievements in the field of command and control of troops.

(2) Awarding the cross of a higher class occurs only after being awarded the lower classes.

Item 3

I reserve the right to award the Big Cross for primary actions that have decisively influenced the course of the war.

Item 4

(1) Iron crosses of the 2nd and 1st grade resemble the former in size and appearance with the difference that the swastika and the digital designation of the year of restoration are depicted on the front side – 1939.

(2) A 2nd grade cross is worn on a black-and-white-red ribbon in a buttonhole or block, a 1st grade cross – without a ribbon on the left side of the chest.

(3) The Knight’s Cross is larger than the Iron Cross of the 1st class, and is worn around the neck on a black, white and red ribbon.

(4) The large cross is almost twice the size of the Iron Cross of the 1st class, instead of silver it is edged with gold and worn around the neck on a black, white and red ribbon.

Item 5

If the recipient is already the owner of one or both classes of the Iron Cross of the times of the [First] World War, then he receives a secondary reel with the national emblem and the year designation – 1939. The reel is worn on the ribbon of the Iron Cross of the 2nd class or attached over the Iron Cross 1st grade.

Item 6

The recipient receives an award document.

Item 7

After the death of the awarded, the Iron Cross is deposited with the close relatives of the deceased.

Item 8

The chief of the High Command of the Wehrmacht issues instructions on awarding the cross in agreement with the Minister of State and the chief of the Presidential Chancellery.

Berlin, August 2, 1939

The Fuhrer and the Reich Chancellor (Adolf Hitler)

Chief of the High Command of the Wehrmacht (Keitel)

Imperial Minister of the Interior (Frick)

Minister of State and Chief of the Presidential Chancellery (Dr. Meissner) “

Adolf Hitler in his military uniform

Adolf Hitler in his uniform.

Note that, as stated in the decree, the crosses of the 1939 model differed from their predecessors by the presence of a convex swastika on the front side in the center and the number “1939” on the lower beam, indicating the year of the next re-creation of the order. The date “1813” was minted on the reverse side, and in addition, markings depending on the manufacturer were applied.

Quite an important difference between the “new old” order was that Hitler immediately established that the Iron Cross would be presented exclusively as military merit. The previously existing “civilian” version of the cross was now replaced by the special award established a little later, on October 18, 1939: the Cross for Military Merit (Kriegsverdienstkreuz), which, in turn, had a rather extensive gradation. And, of course, the emergence of a special degree is noteworthy – the Knight’s Cross, which we will dwell on below, in the 2nd part of this book.

The same innovation was the rods – the fasteners – to the Iron Cross of the times of the First World War, i.e., the sample of 1914. Earlier, there was no need for such additional signs of distinction: enough time passed between the Napoleonic Wars, the Franco-Prussian War and the First World War to completely change the composition of the armed forces. So, 55 years have passed between the end of the first and the beginning of the second campaign, and 43 years between the second and third. Now, only 21 years passed between the end of the First World War (1918) and the beginning of a new one (1939), and very many officers, especially in the rank of general, deservedly wore the Iron Crosses of the 1914 model. But according to the statute, the Iron Cross awarded servicemen solely for the merits shown in a particular war. Thus, the one who received the Iron Cross in World War I would again deserve the same award. For this, a spool was invented.

Iron crosses

Iron crosses 1 and 2 classes. Photo awards from our collection. Photo by Apolon

The number of different categories of Knight’s Crosses increased from one to five, and the Iron Crosses of the 1st and 2nd class began to be received not only by Germans who fought with the enemy at the front with weapons in their hands. The provision “special courage in the face of the enemy” began to be interpreted quite widely, which made it possible to get the Iron Cross of the 1st and 2nd class, for example, Walter Schellenberg (at that time the head of the Gestapo counterintelligence department), and the rods to the crosses of the 1st and 2nd 2nd class – SS gruppenführer Heinrich Müller, the notorious Gestapo chief, who during the Second World War did not stay at the front for a day.

Below we will focus on individual degrees of the Iron Cross.

Class 2 Iron Cross (Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse)

Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse

2nd Class Iron Cross. Photo by Apolon

2nd Class Iron Cross Reverse

2nd Class Iron Cross Reverse. Photo by Apolon

An ear (also “silver”) was soldered to the upper beam of the cross, into which a round ring for the order ribbon was inserted. The ear usually (but not always) was the brand of the manufacturer. The following hallmarks of workshops and LDOs that produced the signs of the Iron Cross of the 2nd class are known: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 13, 15, 16, 19, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 33, 35, 40, 41, 42, 44, 49, 52, 55, 56, 65, 66, 75, 76, 80, 93, 95, 96, 98, 100, 103, 106, 108, 113, 120, 123, 125, 129, 133, 137, 138, 142, L / 3, L / 11, L / 12, L / 13, L / 58.

An ear (also “silver”) was soldered to the upper beam of the cross, into which a round ring for the order ribbon was inserted.

An ear (also “silver”) was soldered to the upper beam of the cross, into which a round ring for the order ribbon was inserted. Photo by Apolon

In full dress, the 2nd Class Iron Cross was worn on a red-white-black ribbon on a block on the left side of the uniform in a block with other awards, moreover, it had an advantage over the Cross for military merits, awards for years of service, of course, medals, etc. E. He was worn on the far right. In everyday or field uniforms, a narrow (25 mm) sash without a cross was worn, threaded into the second buttonhole of the uniform, or a 15 mm tape on a small sash block above the left pocket (which is less common). In the buttonhole on the ribbon, the cross was worn only on the day of the award.

The 2nd class iron cross was handed in a blue envelope with the inscription: “Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse”. Less often – in a box covered in black lederin. An order ribbon 150 mm long was attached to the badge of the order. At the same time, the recipient was given the appropriate diploma, certifying only the fact of the award – there was no mention of merit in the diploma. The diploma, which had in the upper part an image of the Iron Cross without an abalone, that is, actually the 1st Class Iron Cross, began with the words “Im Namen des F? Hrers und Obersten Befehlshabers der Wehrmacht” – “On behalf of the Fuhrer and the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht” ( both of these posts were held by Adolf Hitler), followed by the name of the awarded and the position held by him. The division commander usually signed the diploma, but in principle, the signature of any higher chief, up to the commander-in-chief, could have been placed. The signature was certified by the corresponding round seal. However, there were quite frequent cases when the diploma was prepared by improvised means, that is, it was simply typed on a typewriter, and the cross at the top was depicted by hand. This usually happened during hostilities when there were no necessary forms at hand.

The number awarded with the Iron Cross of the 2nd class is still not precisely determined. It is believed that 2,500,000 crosses of the 2nd class were made in total, of which about 2,300,000 were awarded. Some researchers (for example, Thomas Wilhelm Schwarzer) bring the number of those awarded to 3 million, but this is most likely an obvious exaggeration.

The first awards of the 2nd Class Iron Cross were made during the Polish campaign in September 1939, almost immediately after the re-establishment of the order. The youngest of those awarded was 12-year-old Alfred Zeck, the senior Züngführer Jungfolk, born in 1933 in Goldenau (Upper Silesia). He was awarded the Iron Cross of the 2nd class in March 1945 for the fact that during the battles against the Soviet troops on the Oder he carried out 12 wounded German soldiers under massive enemy fire.

Frames to the Iron Cross 2nd class (Spange Zum 1914 Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse)

Spange Zum 1914 Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse

Frames to the Iron Cross 2nd class. Photo by Apolon

As follows from the decree above, such a bar was intended to be rewarded with the Iron Cross for those who received the 2nd Class Iron Cross during the First World War. First of all, it was almost all the generals who during the previous war were assured, more rarely, by the head officers. Spange in German means “plank, buckle”, but due to the fact that this is the name of the repeated award with the Iron Cross, it is better to use a primitive vowel when translating, especially since this does not change the meaning of the phenomenon.

The method of attaching the bolt to the ribbon of the Iron Cross 2nd class

The method of attaching the bolt to the ribbon of the Iron Cross 2nd class. Photo by Apolon

Despite the fact that the text of the decree said that the rod is made of silver, it was practically from the first days of the war that it was produced from an alloy with an admixture of silver (i.e., silver of very low fineness), and then, with the depletion of resources, generally from silvered zinc . The size of the rod is 32×31 mm (when the frack version was privately manufactured, the size could be even smaller – 25×25 mm). The most interesting thing is that such a bar is a much rarer sign of distinction than the Iron Cross itself, and on the international antique market it costs $ 75-100, while the Iron Cross itself, 2nd class, starts at $ 40. [4] The bolt to the Iron Cross of the 2nd class was worn on a tape of the 1914 sample, that is, black with white stripes along the edges and black edging, in the buttonhole or on the block, all on the same tape. The rod was attached to the tape using two clamps.

Shpanga and an iron cross of 2 class.

Shpanga and an iron cross of 2 class. Photo by Apolon

The frame was handed along with a special diploma and a box.

1st Class Iron Cross (Eisernes Kreuz 1. Klass)

The front side of the 1st Class Iron Cross was the same as the 2nd Class Cross, but the back was silvered and smooth, as it was attached to the uniform with a vertical pin (there were also options when the cross was attached with using a screw, but these were already options made by private orders). Accordingly, the 1st grade cross did not have a ribbon ring. The dimensions of the cross were 43×43 mm, the flat pin (1.5 mm thick) was slightly wider in the middle part and tapering at the ends, it was made of silver-plated brass sheet or steel.

1st Class Iron Cross

1st Class Iron Cross. Photo by Apolon

1st Class Iron Cross Reverse

1st Class Iron Cross Reverse. Photo by Apolon

At the very beginning of the war, several manufacturing companies issued the so-called “convex” cross. They were based on the shape of the cross, which during the First World War was very popular with front-line soldiers. However, the Presidential Chancellery, which controlled the standards for the production of awards, did not approve of such an innovation and, by its decision of March 5, 1941, indicated to manufacturers the inadmissibility of amateur performances. As a result, only a very limited number of “convex” crosses were awarded.

The above-mentioned version of the Iron Cross of the 1st class with screw mounting was also originally produced bypassing the existing rules. However, in this case, the Presidential Chancellery did not insist on compliance with the standards established by it and all the same on March 5, 1941 approved such crosses. In this case, the fact that fastening with a screw was much more reliable and more suitable for the conditions of military operations played a role. The fastening looked as follows: a 6-mm threaded rod was soldered to the back of the Iron Cross, onto which a convex nut 30 mm in diameter was wound. On the inside of the nut there was a hollow threaded sleeve, which was wound on a cylindrical rod on the reverse side; on the upper beam of such crosses there was a small pin that prevented the rotation of the cross on clothing. Iron crosses of the 1st class with fastenings in the form of a shell, as well as with a large washer, dressed on a rod under the nut, were extremely rare.

Code 7

Code 7 – manufacturer Paul Meyhauer (Berlin). Photo by Apolon

The following hallmarks of workshops and LDOs that produced the signs of the Iron Cross of the 1st class are known: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 15, 20, 25, 26, 52, 65, 100, 107, L / 10, L / 11, L / 12, L / 13, L / 15, L / 16, L / 18, L / 19, L / 50, L / 52, L / 53, L / 54, L / 55, L / 56, L / 57, L / 58, L / 59, L / 68, L / 73.

In order to get a 1st class cross, military personnel of the ground forces needed to accomplish several “feats”, that is, to show courage in 3-5 successful battles. For the Luftwaffe servicemen, there was a special system of points – the Iron Cross of the 1st class relied on 5 points collected. 0, 5 points were given for the destruction of a damaged single-engine aircraft, 1 point – for the destruction of a fighter, 2 points – for a twin-engine fighter, 3 points – for a four-engine bomber, etc .; night victories went at a double “tariff”. Thus, the cross in the Luftwaffe could be obtained for the destruction of 2 – 10 enemy aircraft. In the submarine fleet, crew members of submarines were usually awarded a 1st class cross after sinking enemy ships with a total tonnage of more than 50 thousand tons or for participating in 3-5 operations.

As we already mentioned, the 1st class cross was worn on the left breast pocket of the tunic (or about this place if the pocket was missing), in the pre-war versions – on the pleated fold, below the shoe. However, they did not follow too closely the implementation of this norm, and one can often see that the 1st grade cross was worn much lower, actually under one’s pocket, but this was theoretically a departure from the norm.

Together with the cross, a standard diploma (or, rather, an award sheet) was issued, the same as in the case of the Iron Cross of the 2nd class. The cross was presented in a special box covered in black lederin, on the lid of which the image of the Iron Cross was engraved in silver. Theoretically, the inside was covered with white silk and the base with velvet, but pretty soon, when the number of awards increased sharply, cheaper substitutes began to be used.

Approximately, according to various sources, between 300,000 and 450,000 Class I Iron Crosses were made, although a fairly significant number of them were never presented. During the existence of the award, there were only two women among the 1st Class Iron Cross gentlemen: the flycaptain Hannah Reitsch (who received it on November 5, 1942) and the Red Cross nurse Elsa Grossmann, who was awarded in January 1945. True, the case with Frau Grossman is not entirely clear. Information about her award is based on information published in the front-line newspaper Polar-Kurier of January 4, 1945, published in the Norwegian city of Tromsø. Subsequently, the researchers tried to find official confirmation of this fact in the German archives, but failed. Thus, only Fraulein Reich is the only, absolutely accurately established female cavalier of the Iron Cross of the 1st class.

Ewald von Renteln

Ewald von Renteln. Сommander of the 360th Cossack regiment

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