WW2 German Iron Cross Second Class, 1939 pattern, is made of die struck, three piece, iron and alloy construction, a pattée style cross with a single piece iron core and a two piece alloy frame. The obverse features an embossed, high relief, central, canted, swastika with the re-institution date, "1939", to the bottom arm. The reverse bottom arm has the embossed original institution date, "1813". The swastika is in nice high relief while the dates are somewhat lower. The medal loop and ribbon suspension ring are both intact. No makers mark to the ring but the rounded corners show similarities to those manufactured by the Firm Rudolf Souval during the war. The cross comes complete with a piece of very soiled, original ribbed rayon ribbon with holes were an Honor Roll Clasp was once present.
The Iron Cross (German: Eisernes Kreuz (help·info), abbreviated EK) was a military decoration in the Kingdom of Prussia, and later in the German Empire (1871–1918) and Nazi Germany (1939–1945). It was established by King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia and first awarded on 10 March 1813 during the Napoleonic Wars (EK 1813). The recommissioned Iron Cross was also awarded during the Franco-Prussian War (EK 1870), World War I (EK 1914), and World War II (EK 1939, re-introduced with a swastika added in the center). 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 who was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class and 1st Class and Melitta Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg, who was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class, for their actions as pilots during World War II.
The design of the cross symbol was black with a white or silver outline. It was ultimately derived from the cross pattée occasionally used by the Teutonic Order from the 13th century. The black cross patty was also used as the symbol of the German Army from 1871 to March/April 1918, when it was replaced by the bar cross. In 1956, it was re-introduced as the symbol of the Bundeswehr, the modern German armed forces.
Adolf Hitler restored the Iron Cross in 1939 as a German decoration (rather than Prussian), and continued the tradition of issuing it in various classes. Legally, it is based on the "Enactmennt for the re-introduction of the Iron Cross" (Verordnung über die Erneuerung des Eisernen Kreuzes) of 1 September 1939.
The Iron Cross of World War II was divided into three main series of decorations with an intermediate category, the Knight's Cross, instituted between the lowest, the Iron Cross, and the highest, the Grand Cross. The Knight's Cross replaced the Prussian Pour le Mérite or "Blue Max". Hitler did not care for the Pour le Mérite, as it was a Prussian order that could be awarded only to officers. The ribbon of the medal (2nd class and Knight's Cross) was different from the earlier Iron Crosses in that the color red was used in addition to the traditional black and white (black and white were the colors of Prussia, while black, white, and red were the colors of Germany). Hitler also created the War Merit Cross as a replacement for the non-combatant version of the Iron Cross.
The standard 1939 Iron Cross was issued in the following two grades:
Iron Cross 2nd Class (Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse - abbreviated as EK II or E.K.II.)
Iron Cross 1st Class (Eisernes Kreuz 1. Klasse - abbreviated as EK I or E.K.I.)
The Iron Cross was awarded for bravery in battle as well as other military contributions in a battlefield environment.
The Iron Cross 2nd Class came with a ribbon and the cross itself was worn in one of two different ways:
From the second button in the tunic for the first day after award.
When in formal dress, the entire cross was worn mounted alone or as part of a medal bar. For everyday wear, only the ribbon itself was worn from the second buttonhole in the tunic.
The Iron Cross 1st Class was a pin-on medal with no ribbon and was worn centered on a uniform breast pocket, either on dress uniforms or everyday outfit. It was a progressive award, with the second class having to be earned before the first class and so on for the higher degrees.
It is estimated that some four and a half million 2nd Class Iron Crosses were awarded during World War II, and 300,000 of the 1st Class. Two Iron Cross 1st Class recipients were women, one of whom was test pilot Hanna Reitsch.
One of the Muslim SS members to receive the award, SS Obersturmführer Imam Halim Malkoć, was granted the Iron Cross (2nd Class) in October 1943 for his role in suppressing the Villefranche-de-Rouergue mutiny. He, together with several other Bosnian Muslims, was decorated with the EK. II personally by Himmler in the days after the mutiny. Because of his Muslim faith, he only wore the ribbon, and not the cross. Two Jewish officers of the Finnish Army and one female Lotta Svärd member were awarded Iron Crosses, but they would not accept them.
Interestingly the Aviatrix Melitta Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg, who was also Jewish accepted her award. Having worked as a Luftwaffe Test Pilot, she served in the German Red Cross with distinction, becoming one of the last causalities of the Second World War when her unarmed Fieseler Fi 156 Storch was shot down by a USAAF P-51 Mustang over the Sudetenland in May, 1945.
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