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Cheapening the Iron Cross


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1 hour ago, BlackcowboyBS said:

Thanks Chris,

I just ordered my copy of the actual magazine! I will leave my feedback here, once I recieved and read it. I am looking forward to it. 

 

Death before digital!!! 🙂

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Indeed! I prefer printed magazines and books, I am the old generation who prefers the sound 'n smell of paper. That was the reason why I printed my books on the orders and medals of the duchy of Brunswick, no digital version. 

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Getting back to your original question, I think that awarding five million of anything decreases the significance of the award. My grandfather was awarded the EK2 in November, 1914 and this was at the time a noteworthy event. By the time his brother got the award the following year, it was pretty much a 'meh' event. And Hitler 'stole' the Iron Cross from Prussia as a propaganda tool for his regime.

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1 hour ago, VtwinVince said:

Getting back to your original question, I think that awarding five million of anything decreases the significance of the award. My grandfather was awarded the EK2 in November, 1914 and this was at the time a noteworthy event. By the time his brother got the award the following year, it was pretty much a 'meh' event. And Hitler 'stole' the Iron Cross from Prussia as a propaganda tool for his regime.

I dunno... If I was to open a shooting association, and at the first competition 2 members got 90 out of 100 points..... and the next competition 3 got 95... and at a competition 6 years later when the club was bigger 6 members shot 95... and after 20 years 50 members had shot 95... would that decrease the significance? As long as a certain standard in maintained there is no decrease in significance... and criteria changed... but there is no objective way of saying a soldier in 1918 had an easier time than a soldier in 1914... added to that, 2 guys in the same section may have served 4 years at the front, doing the same kinda thing... only the one was lucky enough to get the ek2 in 1914, and the other had to wait until 1918... by then the guy who got it in 1918 had done a lot more to earn it than the guy in 1914... although over the course of the war they basically did the same amount of "stuff"

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In the case of the Iron Cross on the non-combat or homefront ribbon, the issue becomes a bit more interesting.  Just over 9% of 1870 awards were on the non-combat ribbon, while approximately 0.34% of the 1914 awards were.  In other words, a reduction in the relative number of awards of over 95%.  These were largely replaced by the Prussian Cross for Kriegshilfe.  In this case, I don't think it is unreasonable to consider a bonafide 1914 NC EKII even more prestigious than the 1870 version.  

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Good points being made here, and I agree on the scarcity of the NC version. I think the difficulty for OR's to receive the first class is well known. My uncle got the EK2 in 1915, fought continuously on both western and eastern fronts, was wounded in Volhynia and was personally recommended for the first class by his regimental CO for Verdun, but did NOT receive it until after a field promotion to Leutnant in the summer of 1918 and a year of combat flying.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi Cents,

I have ordered my printed copy of the magazine only to read the article from Chris. I do think that he made good points in it. Yes we all know that things have changed in WWI. First months we had the Germans on the march and very offensive acting. So the IC was awarded for actions of bravery like the same actions that soldiers could get it in 1870 / 71. After the war changed to a static trench war people got awarded for defensive actions and as well as cumulation of small bravery deeds. So after some time the avarage soldier could get his IC even he wasn't acting a heroic deed. 

But who wants to claim that the soldiers in the trenches weren't fighting brave and loyal for their fatherland, emporer and their flags? The big issue in many letters of the soldiers on the front wasn't that they didn't got to many ic2, no they were complaining that the guys behind the front are getting the same orders and that no one could tell that he was the man in first line of fire or was 50 miles behind it and dealing with the hurdles of replenishment. So the fact that in the renewed statutes it was said that the IC2 and the black 'n white ribbon was for any merit in the warzone (für Verdienst auf dem Kriegsschauplatz) is the saying and only deeds on the home front should be awarded with the white 'n black ribbon, was the reason for the complaining of the fighting troops.

My Granddad got his IC2 on 26th of september 1918, so pretty late, he was NCO and in a fighting bataillon. When he flew the russians zone in 1948 with his wife and his six children, they only had one large suitcase to bring their stuff into the west. Among this was his award document and the black'n white ribbon from 1918! So I am pretty confident that his IC2 didn't felt cheap earned for him. 

I thank Chris for his article because he started a discussion on this and made good points, so we should really rethink if our belief that the IC2 was cheapened in WW1 is really correct. Kudos Chris 

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After reading all the various opinions above with huge interest I wonder how the recipients of the various Iron Crosses would have felt themselves.  

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32 minutes ago, OvBacon said:

After reading all the various opinions above with huge interest I wonder how the recipients of the various Iron Crosses would have felt themselves.  

Well... there is an example I particularly like... In the Wernitz Book. He uses a Musikmeister as an example of the cheapening of the Iron Cross 1st class... along the lines of "even a Musikmeister could get one!" ... and there is a photo of the guy proudly wearing the EK... but if you look the Musikmeister up in the Bavarian archives... he may be wearing it in the photo... but he was never awarded one... Interestingly enough, there is also a slip of paper where someone checked his records in the 30s... confirming he never got one... so the example of how cheapened the cross was turns into an example of how far one man would go to make others think he had an award that had "lost its value"...

I remember in the army when we got out first medal, the national defense medal... everyone was pretty chuffed... when the next guys got it we were suddenly "overly cool"... saying "Bah, its a "chocolate medal"... comes in the basic training kit... blah blah blah..." I assume there was a similar attitude back then... but there are plenty of cases of extremely proud men getting it in 1917-18... cherry picking example of people raving about it, or putting it down serve no purpose... we will always find examples of people saying or writing things that agree with our opinion... it does not make it true...

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3 minutes ago, Chris Boonzaier said:

Well... there is an example I particularly like... In the Wernitz Book. He uses a Musikmeister as an example of the cheapening of the Iron Cross 1st class... along the lines of "even a Musikmeister could get one!" ... and there is a photo of the guy proudly wearing the EK... but if you look the Musikmeister up in the Bavarian archives... he may be wearing it in the photo... but he was never awarded one... Interestingly enough, there is also a slip of paper where someone checked his records in the 30s... confirming he never got one... so the example of how cheapened the cross was turns into an example of how far one man would go to make others think he had an award that had "lost its value"...

I remember in the army when we got out first medal, the national defense medal... everyone was pretty chuffed... when the next guys got it we were suddenly "overly cool"... saying "Bah, its a "chocolate medal"... comes in the basic training kit... blah blah blah..." I assume there was a similar attitude back then... but there are plenty of cases of extremely proud men getting it in 1917-18... cherry picking example of people raving about it, or putting it down serve no purpose... we will always find examples of people saying or writing things that agree with our opinion... it does not make it true...

Thank you Chris.

I would assume most would have been very proud to receive an EK and knowing how miserable WWI was I can only imagine that most who received it deserved it many times over. 

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Just now, OvBacon said:

Thank you Chris.

I would assume most would have been very proud to receive an EK and knowing how miserable WWI was I can only imagine that most who received it deserved it many times over. 

People like to grumble... soldiers more than most 😉 .. same as the one officer who was awarded the VC for the Falklands, who was KIA.... Used to be a lot of debate as to whether he deserved it or not... same goes for many awards in Vietnam, especially to officers who, as detractors say, awarded each other medals...

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1 minute ago, Chris Boonzaier said:

People like to grumble... soldiers more than most 😉 .. same as the one officer who was awarded the VC for the Falklands, who was KIA.... Used to be a lot of debate as to whether he deserved it or not... same goes for many awards in Vietnam, especially to officers who, as detractors say, awarded each other medals...

Agreed.... there will always be grumpy men and there will always be a few cheats. But most will be honorable and it feels somewhat shameful to "devalue" an award when so many gave it all. But I do understand a flip side when people receive a medal or order for subpar deeds or for simply doing a regular job or for something they simply enjoy (think of sports or music).

But I have really enjoyed reading your view and how others respond to it... so again Thanks

 

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39 minutes ago, OvBacon said:

 

But I have really enjoyed reading your view and how others respond to it... so again Thanks

 

🙂 ... IMHO forums thrive on discussion.... Makes logging on all the more worthwhile.

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