Collecting the Periphery Part 3
When collecting medals that are not directly military in nature it would be easy to overlook the Ehrenkreuz der Deutschen Mutter or in English, Cross of Honour of the German Mother. I say this as it seems to me that anything associated with the Third Reich automatically conjures up military associations. This was a state decoration and civil order of merit awarded to mothers for exceptional merit to Germany.
This decoration was awarded from 1939 until 1945 in three classes, these classes being, bronze, silver and gold. All of the classes were awarded to mothers who exhibited exemplary motherhood and in the case of the bronze or 3rd Class award conceived four to five children. The silver or 2nd Class was awarded to mothers with six to seven children and the gold or 1st Class to mothers with eight or more children.
The award was introduced by decree in Berlin in 1938 by the then Chancellor of Germany, Adolf Hitler and awarded annually mainly on Mother’s Day as well as other national association’s annual events of celebrations.
The award of this decoration was highly regarded by the German Government and the mothers nominated for the award were thoroughly investigated to assure that they met the qualifications. A number of benefits were associated with the award including a small financial benefit and preferential treatment within public service such as medical, clothing, schooling and housing. Upon the death of the recipient the Mother’s Cross of Honour was, by statute, allowed to be inheritable by the bereaved family as a keepsake of remembrance.
The design of the cross is based on an elongated iron cross similar to the cross of the Teutonic Knights Order. The body of the cross is blue with a narrow white enamelled border. A sunburst with a roundel in its centre with the words, “DER DEUTSCHEN MUTTER”, English translation: OF THE GERMAN MOTHER around a black swastika is situated where the two parts of the cross intersect. The reverse features the date of introduction, “16 Dezember 1938” beneath which is a facsimile of the signature of the Chancellor, Adolf Hitler. I believe it is quite rare for any national leader to actually have their signature appear on the reverse of a medal of decoration. Not that this is an actual autograph per sae, however, it is a copy of his signature which I personally find interesting. From what I have read, from several sources, Adolf Hitler held his own mother in very high esteem. This, in my opinion, may have been a why his signature appears on the German Mother’s Cross. The award was worn around the neck on a thin blue and white ribbon. This was the only official manner of wear though a miniature example is known which was worn suspended from a blue and white bow made of the same ribbon as the neck ribbon. This was a semi-official approved version and a bow alone was also authorized for general everyday wear.
The decoration could be withdrawn at any time after being awarded if it was found that the recipient acted in a manner which conflicted to the criteria set out for the award. An example would be if the mother abandoned her children
At the end of World War Two and the fall of the Third Reich all medals and awards bearing the swastika became illegal to wear and so the Mutterehrenkreuz (Mother’s Cross of Honour) also became illegal and therefore was no longer worn.
It has been held that Hitler implemented this award only to encourage large families in order to fill the ranks of the German military. However, one should keep in mind that when this award was first introduced the world had just gone through a change in morals and a life style not in keeping with the family values of the past. The Roaring Twenties had just ended and a need to bring the thinking of the younger population back in line with the more traditional family values was needed. While this indeed had the additional “benefit” of providing a larger number of young men for military service I believe there were more reasons than purely providing cannon fodder.
One of the reasons for my statement is that Germany has not been the only country to implement an award to honour mothers who raised several children in an appropriate manner. In 1920 France implemented the Médaille de la Famille française (Medal of the French Family). Another example would be the Order of Maternal Glory and Mother Heroine of the Soviet Union from the same era.
A very striking display can be made with these awards and their neck
ribbons. Considering they may still be purchased at a reasonable price one can purchase an extra to display the reverse bearing the signature of Adolf Hitler.
In my next installment of this series, “Collecting the Periphery Part 4” I will get back to British Empire medals. It is my intention to feature photos of the medals from this series that I have in my collection, in the regular sections of the forum.
Wikipedia: Cross of Honor of the German Mother
Collecting the Periphery Part 3