German War Merit Cross (Kriegsverdienstkreuz) 2nd class with swords bronze 74 with issue bag
Marked with 74 (Carl Maurer Sohn, Oberstein), issue bag from Carl Maurer Sohn, Oberstein.
The War Merit Cross (German: Kriegsverdienstkreuz) was a state decoration of Nazi Germany during World War II. By the end of the conflict it was issued in four degrees and had an equivalent civil award. A "de-Nazified" version of the War Merit Cross was reissued in 1957 by the Bundeswehr for its veterans.
This award was created by Adolf Hitler in October 1939 as a successor to the non-combatant Iron Cross which was used in earlier wars (similar medal but with a different ribbon). The award was graded in the same manner as the Iron Cross: War Merit Cross Second Class, War Merit Cross First Class, and Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross. The award had two variants: with swords given to soldiers for exceptional service "not in direct connection with combat", and without swords given to civilians for meritorious service in "furtherance of the war effort". Recipients had to have the lower grade of the award before getting the next level.
The wearing of Nazi era decorations was banned in Germany after the war, as was any display of the swastika. Veterans awarded the War Merit Cross were therefore unable to wear it, either in uniform or – publicly – on civilian dress. In 1957 the Federal Republic of Germany authorised alternative 'de-nazified' replacement versions of World War II period war decorations. These could be worn both on Bundeswehr uniform and in civilian dress. The new version of the War Merit Cross replaced the swastika on the obverse central disc of the cross with the date "1939" (as on the reverse disc of the original version), the reverse disc being blank. The wearing of Nazi era decorations in any form continued to be banned in the German Democratic Republic until German reunification in 1990.
The ribbon of the War Merit Cross was in red-white-black-white-red; that was, the red and black colors being reversed from the ribbon of the World War II version of the Iron Cross. The ribbon for the War Merit Medal was similar, but with a narrow vertical red strip in the center of the black field. Soldiers who earned the War Merit Cross 2nd Class with Swords wore a small crossed-swords device on the ribbon. The War Merit Cross 1st Class was a pin-backed medal worn on the pocket of the tunic (like the Iron Cross 1st Class). The ribbon of the War Merit Cross 2nd Class could be worn like the ribbon of the Iron Cross 2nd Class (through the second buttonhole). Nonetheless combat soldiers tended to hold the War Merit Cross in low regard, referring to its wearers as being in 'Iron Cross Training'. The Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross was a neck order and worn the same way as the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross.
There was one extra grade of the War Merit Cross, which was created at the suggestion of Albert Speer: The Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross in Gold (German: Goldenes Ritterkreuz des Kriegsverdienstkreuzes), but this was never officially placed on the list of national awards as it came about in late 1944 and there was no time to officially promulgate the award before the war ended. The Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross in Gold (without swords) was awarded 'on paper' to two recipients on 20 April 1945: Franz Hahne and Karl-Otto Saur.
The Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross was considered to be ranked higher than the German Cross in silver, but below the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross. A total of 118 awards of the Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross with swords, and 137 awards without swords were awarded. Considering the relative rarity of the award compared with the grades of the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross, it took on "extra meaning" it did not necessarily deserve, as it ranked below the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross. For example, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring made a concerted effort to get Hitler to award him this order, much to Hitler's annoyance. In response, Hitler outlined a series of criteria governing the awarding of this decoration and the philosophy of such awards, and directed that "prominent party comrades" were not to be awarded with the Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross (or similar decorations), and withdrew the proposed awards of this order to Gauleiter Erich Koch and Herbert Backe. Directing his comments at Göring personally, Hitler ordered that such attempts to gain this award be stopped. Also, six persons received two Knights Crosses of the War Merit Cross (each one with and without Swords): Walter Brugmann, Julius Dorpmüller, Karl-Otto Saur, Albin Sawatzki, Walter Schreiber, and Walter Rohlandt.
Closely related to the War Merit Cross was the War Merit Medal (German: Kriegsverdienstmedaille), designated on 19 August 1940 for civilians to recognize outstanding service in the war effort. It was usually awarded to those workers in factories who significantly exceeded work quotas. The War Merit Medal was awarded to Germans and non-Germans, to men and women. An estimated 4.9 million medals were awarded by the end of the war in Europe.
Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross
- Gottlob Berger
- Wernher von Braun
- Walter Brugmann (2-time Knights Cross)
- Kurt Daluege
- Georg Johannes Rickhey
- Walter Dornberger
- Julius Dorpmüller (2-time Knights Cross)
- Franz Xaver Dorsch
- Franz Ritter von Epp
- Karl Hermann Frank
- Hans-Georg von Friedeburg
- Wolf-Heinrich Graf von Helldorff
- Hans Jüttner
- Ernst Kaltenbrunner
- Hans Kammler
- Wilhelm Kube (Posthumous)
- Willy Messerschmitt
- Theo Morell
- Heinrich Müller
- Wilhelm Murr
- Franz Neuhausen
- Wilhelm Ohnesorge
- Franz von Papen
- Oswald Pohl
- Ferdinand Porsche
- Fritz Reinhardt
- Karl-Otto Saur (2-time Knights Cross & Knights Cross in Gold)
- Walter Schreiber (2-time Knights Cross)
- Otto Stapf
- Edmund Veesenmayer
- Walter Warlimont
- Otto Winkelmann
War Merit Cross
- Alfred Ingemar Berndt (1st class)
- Josef Blösche (2nd class, with Swords)
- Karl Böhm (2nd class)
- Philipp Bouhler (1st class)
- Hans Busch (2nd class)
- Friedrich Buchardt (1st class, with Swords)
- Günther Burstyn (1st class, with Swords)
- Adolf Butenandt (1st class)
- Karlfried Graf Dürckheim (2nd class)
- Karl von Eberstein (1st class, with Swords)
- Adolf Eichmann (1st class, with Swords)
- Reinhard Gehlen (1st class, with Swords)
- Ernst Girzick (2nd class)
- Eugen Hadamovsky (1st class)
- Karl Hanke (1st class)
- Adolf Heusinger (1st class, with Swords)
- Reinhard Heydrich (Posthumous: 1st class, with Swords)
- Franz Josef Huber (1st class, with Swords)
- Friedrich Jeckeln (1st class, with Swords)
- Josias, Hereditary Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont (2nd class, with Swords)
- William Joyce (1st class)
- Hasso von Manteuffel (2nd class)
- Dr. Josef Mengele (2nd class, with Swords)
- Wilhelm Mohnke (2nd class, with Swords)
- Arthur Nebe (1st class, with Swords)
- Egon von Neindorff (1st class, with Swords)
- Gustav Adolf Scheel (1st class, with Swords)
- Walter Schellenberg (1st class, with Swords)
- Kurt Schmidt (1st class, with Swords)
- Karl Eberhard Schöngarth (1st class, with Swords)
- Hermann Senkowsky (1st class)
- Josef Spacil (1st class, with Swords)
- Rudolf Toussaint (1st class, with Swords)
- Siegfried Uiberreither (1st class)
- Ailsby, Christopher (1987). Combat Medals of the Third Reich. Harpercollins. ISBN 978-0850598223.
- Angolia, John (1987). For Führer and Fatherland: Military Awards of the Third Reich. R. James Bender Publishing. ISBN 0912138149.
- Lumsden, Robin (2001). Medals and Decorations of Hitler's Germany. Airlife Publishing. ISBN 1-84037-178-1.
- Media related to Kriegsverdienstkreuz (1939) at Wikimedia Commons