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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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It is not only your Musikmeister Chris, just think of the many people (over 400.000) requests after WW! to got an EK2 awarded. Would so many people try to get an order for a lost war, if it was devalued that much? I doubt it.

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One more thing that came into my mind this weekend. There so many different award documents for the EK2 and EK1 out there, some very impressive and beautyfull made by artists who served in their regiments who designed them. You can find these documents here: Award1Award2Award3Award4 and Award5

As said, there are even award certificates from 1918 designed that beautyfull, so this again speeks against a cheapening of the iron cross.  

 

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Some fantastic ones there! there are 3 stages or award doc periods... Initially they were going to hand out Documents like the 1870 ones after the war so there was no official order for documents ... Only in the 1st months of 1916 came the order to award preliminary documents... (although many units were already doing that).. then in the last month or so of the war the Kaiser decreed that whatever paper the soldier had at that moment, (Ausweis, Besitzzeugnis etc) would be his official one. I think by 1918 some units had realized that and were giving out the sexy stuff... like the Alpenkorps document...

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On 23/01/2021 at 03:42, BlackcowboyBS said:

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 

Good point.  I know my Great Grandfather highly prized his EKII so much he carried in his pocket his entire life until he died in the US in 1960.  The story was almost legendary throughout my extended family how “Grandpa” had an Iron Cross from WWI.  I was lucky enough to have it given to me after I returned from my first tour in Iraq in 2005 when it just popped up.  

On 25/01/2021 at 12:57, 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. 

I have seen a lot of interesting  photos of guys in the paramilitary groups who just had the Hindenburg Cross; I wonder how they felt when they saw a guy to their left or right with that extra little EKII or similar state award?  Pretty similar in the US Army today when you see a SR NCO or Colonel who is “slick sleeve” as we like to call it.  

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10 hours ago, ostprussenmann_new said:

 I know my Great Grandfather highly prized his EKII so much he carried in his pocket his entire life until he died in the US in 1960.

Now I am curious how an EK looks, that was carried around in a pocket for a whole life...

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5 minutes ago, Utgardloki said:

Now I am curious how an EK looks, that was carried around in a pocket for a whole life...

Rusted, Frame around the iron core loose, and Ring broken off.  I have it in riker box mounted on wall with rest of his items...

 

22FC5907-C7E9-4204-A8B7-39F57632197B.jpeg

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11 hours ago, ostprussenmann_new said:

Good point.  I know my Great Grandfather highly prized his EKII so much he carried in his pocket his entire life until he died in the US in 1960.  The story was almost legendary throughout my extended family how “Grandpa” had an Iron Cross from WWI.  I was lucky enough to have it given to me after I returned from my first tour in Iraq in 2005 when it just popped up.  

 

Great story, thanks for sharing it with us! 

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  • 1 month later...

Just catching up on this thread and two comments:

1. How do you know (Chris) that 5% were awarded postwar? I have seen a tonne of militarbooks over the years where the EK2 was awarded in October/November, 1918 when it was obvious Germany was done or upon demobilization. Are you going by tue Kleitmann statistics?

2. The EK2 noncom was a different animal than the PWMK. In 1870 it was clear that the ribbon denoted a newly minted ( Red Cross advocated) “ noncombatant” status rather than a rear echelon action. Almost nobody got the PWMK for actions under fire (ok- maybe trainmen or postmen) but the Noncom EK2 was heavily awarded to Pastors/ Priests , Medical Doctors and military bureaucrats. Many of the Doctors and Pastors got theirs under heavy fire. In 1914 these same AstArzt types and FeldPfarrers got the EK2 on the black/ white ribbon- denoting combat. 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just remembered that I had this in the back of the drawer. A letter written in 1927 from a Mr Weisse who had promised to send a souvenir to an associate in England. The letter contained an EKII (which I still have). Quoting directly from the hand written letter:

 

"here enclosed is one, an "Iron Cross." It is not easy to get them as the German braves are as proud of them as the British with the V.C."  

 

So, even getting on for ten years after the war, it seems as though the veterans held them in very high regard. 

As a side note the EKII was enclosed in it's own hand written titled envelope "Iron Cross won by a German somewhere on the Great Battlefield" and includes the certificate stamped KGL.PR.MAGDEB.PION.BATL.No.4 - 5.KOMPAGNIE signed in purple crayon by 'Martin'  

Edited by Spasm
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  • 2 weeks later...

I found an interesting quote of a German man of letters. Hermann Otto Rudolf Presber said at the beginning of WW1: "Und mögen Orden gleißen,des Goldwerts sich bewußt, das schlichte Kreuz aus Eisen schlägt all sie auf der Brust. Kein andres ist zu achten,ihm gleich an seinem Wert, das in der Not der Schlachten,den Mann und Kämpfer ehrt."

 

In Englkish it would read like this: "And even if medals glitter, aware of their gold and value, the simple cross of iron beats them all on the chest. No other is to be respected, nor equal to it in its value, which honors the man and fighter in the distress of battles."

Edited by BlackcowboyBS
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