New Wehrmacht Iron Cross, 1939

New Wehrmacht Iron Cross, 1939

This iron cross I found in Cologne (May 20, 2014). I believe it to be real. These two pictures show the front and reverse of the medal.

Reverse side of Iron Cross

Reverse side of Iron Cross

The number of souvenir shops boggles. Several are devoted to Russian military ornaments and uniform items. Others to all kinds of things including Nazi era coinage.

The Iron Cross (German: Eisernes Kreuz) is a cross symbol typically in black with a white or silver outline that originated after 1219 when the Kingdom of Jerusalem granted the Teutonic Order the right to combine the Teutonic Black Cross placed above a silver Cross of Jerusalem.

The military decoration called the Iron Cross which existed in the Kingdom of Prussia, and later in the German Empire and Third Reich, was established by King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia and first awarded on the 10th of March in 1813 during the Napoleonic Wars. The recommissioned Iron Cross was also awarded during the Franco-Prussian War, World War I, and World War II. The Iron Cross was normally a military decoration only, though there were instances of it being awarded to civilians for performing military functions. Two examples of this were civilian test pilots Hanna Reitsch and Melitta Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg, who were awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class and 2nd Class respectively for their actions as pilots during World War II.

The Iron Cross was used as the symbol of the German Army from 1871 to March/April 1918, when it was replaced by the bar cross. The Iron Cross was reintroduced as an award in the German Army in 1939 with a Swastika added in the center during the Third Reich in World War II. In 1956, the Iron Cross resumed its German military usage, as it became the symbol of the Bundeswehr, the modern German armed forces. The traditional design is black and this design is used on armored vehicles and aircraft. A newer design in blue and silver is used as the emblem in other contexts.

The Iron Cross is a black four-pointed cross with white trim, with the arms widening toward the ends, similar to a cross pattée. Frederick William III commissioned the neoclassical architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel to design the Iron Cross after a royal sketch. It reflects the cross borne by the Teutonic Knights in the 14th century.

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 Frederick William III, while the next two have a “W” for the respective kaisers, Wilhelm I and Wilhelm II. The final version shows a swastika. There was also the “1957” issue, a replacement medal for holders of the 1939 series which substituted an oakleaf 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 an 1870 Iron Cross to be subsequently awarded another Iron Cross. These recipients were recognized with the award of the 1914 clasp featuring a miniaturized 1914 Iron Cross on a metal bar. 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” (Spange) would be worn on the original 1914 Iron Cross. (A similar award was made in 1914 but was quite rare, since there were few in service who held the 1870 Iron Cross.) For the 1st Class award, the Spange appears as an eagle with the date “1939” that was pinned above the Cross. Although they are two separate awards, in some cases the holders soldered them together.

A cross has been the symbol of Germany’s armed forces (now the Bundeswehr) since 1871. However, this one is closely related to Nuremberg, and thus its location here. It reminds me that the world can never again allow the tragedy of another Hitler.

Location 20-A1

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