Though there was a great variety of awards introduced since the beginning of Word War II, Hitler felt that there was a need to bridge the significant gap that existed between the Iron Cross 1st Class and the Knights Cross. On September 28, 1941, the War Order of the German Cross (der Kriegsorden des Deutschen Kreuzes) was created to fill such a roll. The award was introduced at a time when the conquests of the Third Reich were at a peak, though cracks in the armor would soon begin to appear with the failure to take Moscow. The medal would continue to decorate German men at arms through to Germanys' ultimate defeat and beyond, having been reissued in 1957 in its final denazified form.
The German Cross was designed by Professor Klein of Munich, and receives its “Order” and “Cross” title because the swastika is technically a cross, though the award does not in the least resemble a traditional cross as we mostly think of one. It was instituted in two divisions; the German Cross in Gold was to be presented for Military bravery in the face of the enemy while the Silver Cross was awarded for leadership not directly involving combat operations. In this way the Gold Cross was associated with the Iron Cross, and it had a prerequisite of an Iron Cross 1st Class while the Silver division was closely related to the War Merit Cross, and the 1st Class of that award was needed in order to receive it. It must be clear that, though the German Cross had a close relationship with both these decorations it belonged to neither one, nor was it a stepping stone between the 1st Class and the Knights Cross. It was a completely independent award, many who received the German Cross never got the Knights Cross while there were Knights Cross winners who never received the German Cross.
Manufacturing and Technical Information
The German Cross in Gold and Silver are identical in appearance, the only exception being the wreath of laurel leaves which bears the date 1941. In case of Gold German Cross, the wreath is in Gold. I will let you guess what color the award in Silver is. The German Cross varies in size from early to late war. Most Crosses measure 62.5 to 63.5 mm across at the widest part of the cross. This measurement is taken from each of the middle points of the cross going straight across (horizontally) the center of the Swastika. I have found the Swastikas to be around 21mm. The Swastika is made of black enamel outlined in silver, the silver is very thin and in some cases you can see the tombac alloy bleeding through. I would like to point out that early awards of this medal have a Swastika that is almost blue-black in appearance. You will notice it when looking at it outside in strong light. I have a 5 rivet example which has this characteristic.
The Swastika is attached to a frosted silver disk. In most cases this disk will show tarnish , or will be rubbed through to the tombac, or fine zinc metal that the plate is made of. Around this disk’s perimeter lies a brick-red enamel ring, a little wider than the laurel leaves, in which the wreath of laurel leaves rests upon. Outside of this is a ribbed or rayed dark gray eight pointed star shield. These shields are either painted or in the finer ones almost blue in appearance. All of this is riveted to a eight pointed rayed backing plate, which gives the appearance of the gray plate being trimmed in silver. The Crosses may be found with either 4, 5, 6, 8, or 10 rivets on the reverse holding the piece together.
The German Cross was secured to the uniform by means of a wide, flat pin and hinge which was soldered to the back plate. Manufacturers stamped their mark on this pin or behind it, right on the back plate. Principal manufacturers of the award were Deschler of Munich, Steinhauer & Luck of Lundenscheid, Zimmerman of Pforzheim and Junker of Berlin.
Recipients who chose to do so, and many did, could purchase an official copy of the award. These are often found with the screw back fastening method and the quality varied depending on the manufacturer. Early awards were relatively heavy, while later the Cross was produced in nickel and was considerably lighter. The quality of the award was very high and this did not diminish as with other decorations with the passing of the war years. The German Cross, like its cousin the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, kept its high quality through out the war. Its attractiveness never gave out. That is one of the reasons the award is so popular today with collectors, because it is still a very hard and costly award to reproduce correctly. Therefore, if you know what to look for it is very safe to buy one of these coveted items. The German Cross can be broken into three categories to decide if the piece is early-, mid-, or late-construction. The following categories apply to both Gold and Silver versions.
This category applies to the rarest of the rare. This applies to those crosses found with 8 or 10 rivets. It is said these crosses pertain to some of the first recipients, so finding original examples are few and far between.
I have never seen an 8 rivet German Cross myself, but I was told they have one rivet on each tip of the reverse cross points (they are in the same pattern as the ten point, with the exception of the extra two rivets flanking the pin-see below). However this is a educated guess, and I would love to hear from anyone who has or has seen one of these. These rivets are domed in appearance.
The ten rivet cross is even rarer and I have only seen a few photos of these in collections. The ten domed rivets are found on the reverse riveted near the tip of each star point on the reverse silver plate. The ninth and tenth rivets are found 2 to 3 mm behind the center star point rivets going horizontally through the center of the award. These crosses also have narrow coke bottle shaped pins, instead of the broader flat pins found on the other versions. The pin is attached to a flat rounded backing disk with straight sides, which is in turn attached to the backing plate. The half moon rounded catch is simply attached to the plate as well. I have been told these crosses bear no maker marks and the ones I have seen have some sort of dedication or engraving etched on the reverse. These crosses are made of bronze material and are very heavy. To me, this version appears slightly crude when compared to the other versions. However, these items are very well made, it is just a design preference, I guess.
The German Crosses manufactured in mid-1942 can be found in either 4, 5, or 6 rivets. These crosses can be spotted without even having to flip them over. The secret is looking at the wreath. The wreaths of these are also found on the eight and ten rivet versions as well. The wreaths on these awards are bushy in appearance. That is to say, the wreaths have a flared appearance when looking at the tips of the laurel leaves. The wreaths of these awards spray out over the brick-red disk almost masking the red itself. The wreath really looks like leaves.
The reverse of these crosses bear domed rivets of 4, 5, or 6 (Austrian style) in number. If the Cross bears 5 rivets, the rivets can be found at the top of the star point plate, bottom of the star point plate, and one on each center point on the side of the cross. If the points were connected, they would form a diamond. The fifth domed rivet (and it is slightly larger than the other ones) can be found directly in the center of the cross. This medal is made of heavy bronze material and bears no maker mark. The pin is a broad pin which slightly tapers at the end. This award is very heavy.
The four domed rivet cross is identical in nearly all respects to the five rivet except that the cross has no fifth rivet in the center. Some of these crosses bear maker marks such as 1 (Deschler & Sohn), 4 (Steinhauer & Lueck), or 21 in a box (Gebr. Godet & Co.). These maker marks are found stamped on the obverse of the pin bar. These marks are usually found in the center of the pin.
The six rivet cross, or Austrian version, as collectors call it, consists of three domed rivets going vertically down the side of the pin bar. In other words, the pin is flanked by three rivets on each side.
These crosses are of heavy construction as well, but the ones I have seen bear no maker mark. The pin and catch construction on this medal, as well as the other ones in this category, are simply attached to the silver rayed backing plate. The pin and catch are not attached to a separate oblong welding plate, like the next category of German Crosses. Some of these awards can also be found with dedications or engravings being named to the recipient.
This category of the German Cross is the most common one encountered. These crosses were manufactured from 1943 until the end of the war. These crosses are very standard in appearance and differ greatly from the other two categories. To begin with, the wreath on these crosses is not flared or sprayed. The laurel leaves have a very rounded and smooth appearance. It takes close inspection to even notice that they are even laurel leaves at all. The medals are very light, since they are made up of a light weight alloy material, which does tend to hold their finish better than the earlier versions. However, the finish still retains some nickle to it since you will still find tarnish on these.
The reverse consists of four hollow (donut shaped) rivets arrayed in the same pattern as the category two, four rivet pattern. The pin and catch are identical to the category two except that the pin and catch are attached to a oblong rounded backing plate, which is then recessed into reverse silver plate. The pins on some of these awards are slightly curved at the tip, where it meets the catch. These awards can be found with maker marks 1(Deschler & Sohn), the most common mark 20 (C.F. Zimmermann), or the rarely encountered 134 (Otto Klein).
If the award is found with a number 1 maker mark, the mark will be found stamped on the obverse center of the pin bar. If the award is found with a number 20 maker mark, this mark will be encountered on the reverse center. The 20 hallmark, by the way, is stamped horizontally down the center, with the top of the 20 aimed at the right reverse. The rarely encountered 134 maker mark is found stamped dead center of the badge’s reverse and not on the pin itself. The stamping itself is done in Incuse-Relief. Incuse-Relief is done by punching the maker mark below the surface of the award, with the number itself (134), being a raised surface within the stamping. In other words the 134 mark is raised, within a rounded oblong depression.
As mentioned earlier, these crosses are very standard in appearance, and tend to be the most common version of German Cross encountered.
Cloth Version of the German Cross
The German Cross was a very large award and tended to be heavy and rather bulky. Even the lighter versions of the cross did not seem to help. Working in the small confines of a airplane cockpit, panzer, U-Boat, etc., meant that space was at a premium. Plus, the medal could get snagged on a chute line, or something else which could prove to be deadly. As a result, a undress, or cloth version, of the award was designed which seemed to be a very popular option with its wearers. This version of the German Cross was introduced on June 5th, 1942.
The cloth version was only made in Gold and not in Silver. Beware of a Silver cloth version as these were not officially sanctioned.
The Gold version was produced in the three main cloth color backings of the Wehrmacht, for wear on the uniform. Field -Gray for Army and Waffen SS, Blue-Gray for the Luftwaffe, and Black for the Kriegsmarine and Panzer wrap around tunic. I was told by several collectors that a white backing exists for the white Summer tunic, but I have never seen one and would be weary of one including ones made in Olive-Drab or any other backing color. I feel these are fantasy items and nothing else.
The cloth German Cross is very well made, and it’s quality compares with its metal version. To begin with, cloth German Crosses have metal wreaths identical to ones encountered on category one and two crosses. I have read in some reference books that some may be encountered with bullion wreaths. I have never seen one and would personally shy away from one that was made like this, since a lot of the early reproductions in the 70’s and early 80’s bear these bullion wreaths. The Swastika itself is woven, and placed on a white wool looking disk. Around it is red wool thread and gray thread representing the rayed obverse plate. The tips of the star are done in silver bullion thread. All of this is attached to a slightly larger eight pointed star cut-out in the uniform color (field-gray, blue-gray, black). The reverse of the cloth version will either have a sturdy black paper backing, a thin black mesh, or a thin black type oil cloth attached to protect the uniform. Sometimes a makers mark will be encountered, but this is rather rare. Sometimes these cloth crosses will be encountered with no protective backing material, sometimes the wearer simply removed it before attaching it to their uniform.
The cloth German Cross is very attractive and as a result is highly sought after. Reproductions of this award are getting better, so care should be taken when purchasing one of these.
German Cross in Gold with Diamonds
In 1942 Hitler ordered a special version of the award, the German Cross with Diamonds, and in October of the same year a prototype costing 2,800 Reich Marks was delivered to the Chancellery in Berlin. The award was almost identical to the category two award except that small diamond chips were added to the wreath. The medal was to be ranked above the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, but below the Oakleaves to the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross. However, none were actually awarded. The Rath firm of Munich produced 20 specimens of this award.1
The reverse of the award looks like a Austrian style award, with the exception being six domed donut rivets. The makers name Rath Munchen is stamped on the obverse of the pin bar. The award was presented in a red pebbled case with a gold political looking eagle (looking to the right, and in high detail stenciling) stamped on the outer lid. The interior lid is lined with white satin, while the bottom part of the case is lined with a maroon red velvet.
The German Cross is really the most complexly manufactured of all Third Reich awards and has been covered extensively both on line and in publications. If anyone requires more in depth manufacturer information please e-mail me and I will do my best to refer you to the appropriate people and/or sources.
|German Cross in Gold||German Cross in Gold
Active Duty Version
|German Cross Hook||German Cross Rivet
|German Cross in Silver
|German Cross in Silver
Presentation, Wear, Documents
When presented, the German Cross came in a simulated leather box, with the inside (fitted) bottom covered in black velvet and the lid covered in white satin. A thin 1 mm line the color of the award division (Gold or Silver) surrounded the outer rim of the case. There were no other markings on these cases, with the rare exception of an LDO stamp on the inside of the lid of select privately purchased pieces.
The Cross was worn in the center of the pocket on the right side of the uniform tunic. In cases where there was no pocket, such as the Kriegsmarine, it was worn five inches below the national emblem. The German Cross took precedence over all other decorations with the exception of the Blood Order, which commemorated the failed coup attempt in the early days of the Nazi party (1923). In the extremely rare case where the individual would possess both divisions of the Cross, the Gold was worn over the Silver.
Along with the award, the individual would receive an authorization document. No description of the deeds deserving the award was present, and the folder it came in was similar to that of the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross. Examples of these can be found below.
|German Cross in Gold
|German Cross in Silver
Award Criteria and Statistics
The German Cross was presented to members of the Wehrmacht as well as uniform auxiliary forces such as Police, Railway, and RLB (a few members of these organizations were presented with the award for anti-partisan or air defense duties). In general, to be recommended, an individual would have to distinguish themselves a further six to twelve times above and beyond the deeds which earned them the 1st Class of the Iron Cross or War Merit Cross.
The first 38 presentations of the German Cross were made on October 18, 1941, and figures of how many individuals won the German Cross in Gold and Silver are sketchy. Reference books printed in the 1970’s state 30,000 men (There were no female recipients) recieved the award in Gold, with at least 1,200 recieved the award in Silver. However recent figures indicate that 24,204 men won the version in Gold. When broken down, the numbers look like this:
At least 14 Gold crosses being presented to foreigners.
The Silver award is even less with 1,114 men (again as with the Gold, there were no female recipients) being presented this award. The break down looks like this:
There were no foreign individuals presented this award. Please keep in mind that these numbers are by no means concrete, only the best available at this time. As the figures show, the German Cross in Silver, although ranking below the Gold in precedence, is much rarer. As a result an award in Silver is highly coveted by collectors, therefore making this award more valuable.
By Jody Beltram
(Introduction and editing-Sebastian Bianchi)
German Cross 1957
The German was reissued in 1957 in it’s new denazified form. In the case of the German Cross in Gold, the swastika was replaced by a small Iron Cross 1957 while the Silver Division was resigned to bear the War Merit Cross without swords. As with all 1957 awards, the quality decreased significantly, but they are non the less interesting awards. They are still in limited production today and can be obtained at a reasonable price.
|German Cross in Silver 1957||German Cross in Gold 1957|
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