Sunday, February 22, 2009

The German Iron Cross

It’s been a very long time since I have last posted in this blog, so I thought I’d interject something that might be of true interest but doesn’t have anything directly to do with Prussian history – although, it was during Prussian rule that this was first introduced.

I knew since I was a teenager that my brother was in possession of an iron cross that was given to him by our mother as a memoir of our grandfather. While doing my research for the posts in this blog, I stumbled across the Order of the Black Eagle (see my post from October 5, 2008) wherein the badge of the order is described as a gold Maltese cross with blue enamelling and gold-crowned black eagles (resembling the Order’s black eagle) between the arms of the cross.

Order of the Black Eagle sash and badge

Maltese Cross (Still used today by Malteser International)

I began to wonder if this had anything to do with the Iron Cross that my brother has, so I asked him to photograph it and send it to me. To my great surprise, he was indeed in possession of the iron cross awarded to our grandfather while serving the German army during the Second World War. The resemblance of the following four crosses below is striking, each awarded during wars of particular importance in German history.

Iron Cross of 1813
War of the Sixth Coalition

Iron Cross of 1870

World War 1 Iron Cross, 2nd Class

Iron Cross Second Class from WW2
(my brother's)

The above displayed Iron Cross depicts the Iron Cross Second Class, which was rewarded approximately four and half million times to those soldiers who fought with particular distinction during battle, as well as a handful of civilians who had bravely performed military functions.

Adolf Hitler had reinstated the Iron Cross on the 1st of September, 1939 reviving in this way the originally founded Iron Cross of King Frederick William III of Prussia on the 10th of March in 1813 to those soldiers fighting with distinction against Napoleon in the War of the Sixth Coalition.

Original forms of this cross were used in the coat of arms of the Teutonic Knights in 1143 by Pope Celestine II who ordered the then-called Knights Hospitaller to oversee a German hospital in Jerusalem founded in 1050 as an Amalfitan hospital to provide care for poor and sick pilgrims and to those knights injured in battles to the Holy Land.

Teutonic Knights Coat of Arms

Teutonic Knights Cross

Since the Iron Cross had been issued over the entire period of German history, its design (but not the specific decoration) has remained the symbol of Germany's armed forces (now the Bundeswehr) to this day.

Symbol of the modern German “Bundeswehr”

Chat With Me!!