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THE ROOTS OF THE IRON CROSS

In his book ?the discovery of the Bismarck? Dr. Ballard writes: ? Lindemann gave the order, the blood red battle ensign shot up the mast and was whipped out by the stiff breeze. In the flag upper left-hand corner was a black Iron Cross. In the center, enclosed in a white circle, was a bold Nazi Swastika. Like the navy that flew it, the ensign was an uneasy compromise between tradition and political reality.? We can also read in the book ?Battleship Bismarck? by Von Mullenheim-Rechberg that ?the horizontal and vertical stripes and the Iron Cross in the upper left-hand corner are reminiscent of the white ensign flown by the ships of the Imperial German Navy.? So let?s take a look in one of those Symbols, the Iron Cross.

Through history some heraldic symbols have changed their owners and specially their meaning. A purely lucky symbol in Hindu culture is nowadays the most hated symbol in Western countries: the swastika.

The six pointed Star of David is the single symbol most commonly associated with Jews and Judaism. However, this star did not arise within Judaism, and until recently, it has had not particularly religious meaning. It was once used by Moslems and Christians (Christians still use it as religious symbol).

In 1190 a new Christian Religious Military Order was founded in Palestine, the Teutonic Knights of St. Mary?s Hospital of Jerusalem. They were monks and soldiers and they wore a white cloak with a black cross over a white tunic. So the black cross on a white field was born and the stile of the cross was the ?Tatzenkreuz? that we can still see all over Germany. Just as the Gothic letter this cross was a German way to draw the cross.

In 1525 the Teutonic Knight?s Grand Master gave up the order and abandoned his vows. He became the first Duke of Prussia with hereditary transmission, so converting Prussia in a secular principality. Prussian rulers could not put aside the old times of the Teutonic Knights from their memories and they started using the Order?s symbols as Prussian state symbols.

In 1813 King Friedrich Wilhem III of Prussia established a military award know as ?Iron Cross.? The shape and colors of the award were the same as the used by the Teutonic Order Knights. However the final design was made by the well know German arquitec Karl Frederich Schinkel. Since then Prussia officially usurped the cross of the Teutonic Order and its colors, changing its religious and Christian meaning for a state and military meaning.

As something positive I must say is the fact that the Iron Cross was awarded without regard of nationality or social position class to combatants and noncombatants for act of heroism, contrasting with the Teutonic Order where it can be wear just for nobles knights members of the order and very ?important? people.

?The Nazis motivated by Himmler?s fantasies of reviving German military elite then attended to establish their own ?Teutonic Order? as the highest award of the Third Reich. The ten recipients of this included Reinhard Heydrich and several of the most notorious Nazi criminals, needles to say, although this badge was modeled on that of the genuine order, it had absolutely nothing to do in common with it.? (Quote taken from the web site Papal Orders by Guy Stair Sainty)

?In 1938 the National Socialist regime prohibited the Teutonic Order in Austria and placed its property under the administration of the Third Reich (the Austrian property was restituted by the Republic of Austria in 1947). In 1939 the Teutonic Order was abolished in the Sudetenland (later Czechoslovaquia), its property confiscated and the brothers and sisters expelled from their parishes and convents. This system of confiscation and expulsion was also executed by the Communist government in 1946.

Both the Teutonic Order and its members suffered severe persecution. Some members paid with their lives for their loyalty to the Order. It is difficult to explain in a few words why this action was taken against the order. Suffice is to say that the reasons for the ban included the order?s principle such as the vow ?to defend the Christian faith against all enemies of Christendom and the church,? and the pledge of ?unconditional loyalty to the Pope.? ANOTHER REASON WAS THE FACT THAT - NATURILLY AGAINST THE WILL OF THE ORDER ? THE NATIONAL SOCIALIST MISUSED SOME ELEMENTS OF ITS PAST FOR THE DISTORDED VERTION OF HISTORY THEY EMPLOYED IN THEIR PROPAGANDA. THERE WAS NOTHING THAT THE PROHIBITED AND PERSECUTED ORDER COULD DO TO PREVENT THIS USURPATION, AND EVEN TODAY IT IS SOMETIMES COMPELLED TO PROTES AGAINST THIS MISINTERPRETATION OF ITS SYMBOLS (e.g. THE 800 YEARS OLD CROSS), AND THE FALSIFICATION OF ASPECTS OF ITS HISTORY.? (taken from the Teutonic Knights Official Web Site, my capital letters).

Nowadays the Star of David, the Crescent and the Cross once purely religious symbols have became also symbols of state. How many Europeans flags have the cross on them? I think the black ?Tatzenkreuz? cross on a white field (the Iron Cross), can be used for both the Teutonic Order (today they use a Latin black cross on a white field and the order is purely religious one without the military aspect), as a religious symbol and the Federal Republic of Germany as a state symbol in its Armed Forces because now that cross has history and tradition for both of them (the German Armed Forces and the Teutonic Religious Order). I would like to see the German battle flag charged again with this beautiful heraldic charge: the Iron Cross.

In his book, The Iron Cross, A History 1913-1957, Gordon Williamson says: ?The history of the Iron Cross is as extensive as it is fascinating and to cover it in depth would take a work of many volumes? (would me nice to have all those volumes), and ?assimilated into just about every aspect of German culture, the Iron Cross became more than just a military award.?

Yes, the Nazis used it (However, they did not use it as a party symbol but as a German symbol stained with the party?s symbol that in that time had become also a national symbol imposed by the Nazi party: the Swastika), and now some Neo-Nazi are using or trying to use it and even the Imperial Flag as their symbols (I suppose it is due to the fact that the Swastika is a banned and too obvious Nazi symbol in the West). I really believe and encourage the German government and the Teutonic Order should and to do something to stop those neo-Nazi groups (all over the world), from using the Iron Cross. It (the Iron Cross), should be clean and put in the high position in deserves; the position that a state, Germany, and a religious order, Teutonic Knights, gave to it.

Greetings

Edgar

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