1939 Iron cross 2nd class EKII German with correct ribbon, Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse, or EKII
Adolf Hitler restored the Iron Cross in 1939 as a German decoration (rather than Prussian), and continued the tradition of issuing it in various classes. Legally, it is based on the “Enactment for the re-introduction of the Iron Cross” (Verordnung über die Erneuerung des Eisernen Kreuzes) of 1 September 1939. The Iron Cross of World War II was divided into three main series of decorations with an intermediate category, the Knight’s Cross, instituted between the lowest, the Iron Cross, and the highest, the Grand Cross. The Knight’s Cross replaced the Prussian Pour le Mérite or “Blue Max”. Hitler did not care for the Pour le Mérite, as it was a Prussian order that could be awarded only to officers. The ribbon of the medal (2nd class and Knight’s Cross) was different from the earlier Iron Crosses as the color red was used in addition to the traditional black and white (black and white were the colors of Prussia, while black, white, and red were the colors of Nazi Germany). Hitler also created the War Merit Cross as a replacement for the non-combatant version of the Iron Cross. It also appeared on certain Nazi flags in the upper left corner. The sides of the cross were curved, like most original iron crosses.
The standard 1939 Iron Cross was issued in the following two grades:
- Iron Cross 2nd Class (Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse – abbreviated as EK II or E.K.II.)
- Iron Cross 1st Class (Eisernes Kreuz 1. Klasse – abbreviated as EK I or E.K.I.)
The Iron Cross was awarded for bravery in battle as well as other military contributions in a battlefield environment.
The Iron Cross 2nd Class came with a ribbon and the cross itself was worn in one of two different ways:
- From the second button in the tunic for the first day after award.
- When in formal dress, the entire cross was worn mounted alone or as part of a medal bar.
Note that for everyday wear, only the ribbon itself was worn from the second buttonhole in the tunic.
The Iron Cross 1st Class was a pin-on medal with no ribbon and was worn centered on a uniform breast pocket, either on dress uniforms or everyday outfit. It was a progressive award, with the second class having to be earned before the first class and so on for the higher degrees.
It is estimated that some four and a half million 2nd Class Iron Crosses were awarded during World War II, and 300,000 of the 1st Class