- Medals of Post-War Germany for WWI

Page © 1998 Micheal Shackelford. Images and information provided by Hendrik Meersschaert.

Following the end of the Great War, the political structure of the German Empire changed. The Kaiser had abdicated and the provisional government decided to become a republic rather than a monarchy. Monarchies in the other constituent states also 'fell.' What ultimately resulted (and it was by no means an easy birth) was a single German nation under a single central, elected government. The Weimar government -- and the later Nazi-dominated government -- issued, or witnessed the creation of awards to recognize service or sacrifice during the Great War. Unlike awards made during the war, which were actually Prussian, or Bavarian, etc., these awards were true national awards -- even if some were unofficial.
- Ehrenkreuz des Weltkrieges 1914-18 (Cross of Honor for the Great War, 1914-1918) The Honor Cross is a general service medal, recognizing service during the war. Three classifications were instituted as one of the last acts of President Hindenburg on 13 July 1934. Since Germany did not win the war, it cannot be construed as a "victory" medal, but it was awarded in much the same manner. These crosses are easily the most common German decoration of WWI -- by 15 November 1936 more than 8 million were already issued. Both crosses and ribbons were derived from the 1870-71 War Commemorative Medal, (itself a Prussian award) using the same ribbons and very similar crosses (but for the dates). The reverse of all crosses is plain (mostly with a maker's mark) and the obverse is identical.

Awarded in three categories:
cross for frontline service is bronzed and has crossed swords between the cross's arms. The colors black white and red were used for the ribbon, rather than the black, red, gold of the republic, reflecting the imperial era. The combatants cross was awarded to all who had served in a battle or a siege or any other action on land, sea or in the air. 6,202,883 combatant crosses were distributed. Awards to military personnel still on active duty are not included in these figures and awards continued till 1944, so the total number is much higher.
cross for other troops and serving personnel was the same bronzed iron cross, but without swords, and a wreath of oak leaves instead of laurel. The same ribbon was used, however. The war participants' cross was awarded to all German subjects who were engaged in war service for Germany or her allies, but not in direct fighting or a combat zone. 1,120,449 bronze crosses without swords were distributed to war participants.
cross for the widows and parents of the fallen (irrespective of whether in combat, died from wounds or died as POW's) was of the exact same design as the particpants' cross, but was of blackened iron instead of bronze. The ribbon differed from the troop crosses in that it reversed the black and white stripes. 345,132 black iron crosses were distributed to widows and 373,950 to parents.

- Die Kyffhäuser- Kriegsgedenkmünze des Kyffhäuserbundes e.V. (The Kyffhäuser War Commemorative Medal of the Kyffhäuser Union).
Although awarded by the official Veterans Association, the Kyffhäuser Bund, this is a non-official decoration from the Weimar Republic era.
Obverse : The oval medal is in gilt bronze. Within a border of leaves stands a torn flag under the text, in Gothic script, "BLANK / DIE WEHR / REIN DIE EHR" (not literally translatable but meaning something like 'fighing with open visor, with honour intact"). To the left of the flag are the dates "1914 / 1918) and across the lower part of the medal are four lightning bolts.
Reverse : to the inner side of the border of leaves one reads, on the upper half : "Für Treue im Weltkriege" (For loyalty during the World War) and on the lower half : "Der Kyffhäuserbund". Centrally is the text "Aufrecht / u. Stolz gehen / wir aus dem / kampfe den wir / über vier Jahre / gegen eine Welt / von feinden / bestanden / hindenburg" (Standing proudly we leave the battle which we fought, more than four years long and against the world, Hindenburg).
Bars are related to this medal

- Deutsche Ehrendenkmünze des Weltkrieges der Deutschen Ehrenlegion.
(German Honorary World War Commemorative Medal of the German Legion of Honour.) Awarded by the "Council of the Order" of the Union of Nationalist Soldiers to men or women who, during the 1st WW and after dutifully served the Fatherland.

This bronze medal, either gilded or coppered. Noteworthy is the portayal of the winged Victory crowning a German soldier on the obverse.
The reverse shows the Iron Cross 1st Class with oak leaves around the lower rim of the medal. Along the upper edge of the medal is the text "FÜRS VATERLAND" (For the Fatherland) in Gothic lettering. The ribbon is formed with the then German national colours.
For frontline troops a combat emblem was created for attachment to the ribbon : a gilt oak leaf wreath with a sword across.
This medal was first proposed in the autumn of 1917 but it took till 1921 before the "Council of the Order", which was to effect the actual awarding, was formed. Recipients had to pay for their medal themselves and could, if they so wished, be entered in the German Legion of Honour. This organization was divided in "Ritterschaften" (knight groups) and its members could call themselves "Ritter der Deutschen Ehrenlegion" (Knight of the German Legion of Honour).

Early in the Nazi era, by a decree of 15 May 1934, awards like these were forbidden and the German Legion of Honour joined the Kyffhäuser-Bund (the official veterans' organization) soon after.

- Das Kolonialabzeichen. The Colonial Badge, also called Elephantenorden (Elephant's Order). Awarded to all German colonials who, during the 1st WW and in the former German colonies, were acting or serving on behalf of the colonies.
This silvered badge made of copper or aluminium has on the obverse a palm tree and an elephant. The lower part of the badge is covered with oak leaves and around the upper rim are the place names "SÜDSEE * AFRIKA * KIAUTSCHOU" referring to the larger areas where German colonies were situated. The pin backed reverse has only the text "GES. GESCHÜTZT NR. 33992" (Legally protected Nr. 33992).
This official decoration was instituted in October 1921 and was to be purchased by the recipient. By 21 November 1936 some 8,000 were issued and it is safe to assume that few later awards took place.

- Das Deutsche Feldehrenzeichen (German Field Decoration). This was a non-official decoration awarded during the Weimar Republic. On a background of grey metal rays lies a white enamel cross with gilt crossed swords between the cross's arms. The gilt rimmed medaillon in grey metal shows a fully packed soldier. The pin backed reverse had the following text : "Deutsches / Feld - Ehren - Zeichen / Ges. / Gesch. / e.O. / Hamburg 11" (German Field Decoration, legally protected, Ö)

- Das Ehren- und Erinnerungskreuz des Marinekorps Flandern (Honor and Remembrance Cross of the Navy Corps, Flanders) also referred to as "Flandernkreuz". This was a non-official decoration awarded during the Weimar Republic, most likely as a commemorative token to members of the Navy Corps stationed on the Flemish coast in Belgium.
This bronze cross has crossed swords between the cross's arms and has on the obverse a central medaillon with, within a laurel wreath, an anchor on the letter "W" (Emperor Wilhelm) and an emperor's crown on top. The cross's arms bear the text "Zur See / Unbe- / siegt / Im Felde" which should be read : Zur See, Im Felde, unbesiegt (on the seas, in the field, unvanquished).
The reverse has the "Kriegsflagge", the German Navy Battle Flag, in the laurel wreathed medaillon and a Flemish lion in the upper cross arm. The remaining arms have the text "MARINE- / KORPS - 1914/18". The ribbon is in the then German national colours.

- Das Baltenkreuz (Baltic Cross) Awarded to the members of the Baltic militia (Landeswehr) and the German volunteer units in the Baltic area that, before 1 July 1919, had been for at least 3 months "under fire" (i.e. on active service and having participated in fighting) in the Baltic countries.
It is a black oxydized metal cross with a gilt 'Hochmeister" of the German Knighthood Order cross, ending in lilies, on top of it. The reverse is plain.
There was only one "class" of this award, but it could be worn as either a breast pin or from a white ribbon with a central blue band and blue stripes near the ribbon's edge. This gives rise to some notations as the ribbon-hung issue being a "2nd Class", similar to the Iron Cross, but there was only the one class.

The Baltic cross was instituted in the summer of 1919 by the "Baltische Nationalausschuß" in commemoration of the Baltic liberation fights in 1918-19 (in Südlivland and Kurland). This Nationalausschuß was the political representation of the German Baltic population in Latvia at the time. In total 21,839 crosses were issued. It was only on 16 May 1933 that the Baltic Cross was officially recognized as an offical German award.


There were also numerous non-offical commemorative medals issued for service in a particular unit. One example is this 3rd Marine Pioneer Corps cross. Obverse -- Reverse.

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