1939 Knight’s Cross, WWII German iron cross, Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes
The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes), or simply the Knight’s Cross (Ritterkreuz), and its variants were the highest awards in the military and paramilitary forces of Nazi Germany during World War II.
The Knight’s Cross was awarded for a wide range of reasons and across all ranks, from a senior commander for skilled leadership of his troops in battle to a low-ranking soldier for a single act of military valour. Presentations were made to members of the three military branches of the Wehrmacht: the Heer (army), the Kriegsmarine (navy) and the Luftwaffe (air Force), as well as the Waffen-SS, the Reichsarbeitsdienst (RAD—Reich Labour Service) and the Volkssturm (German national militia), along with personnel from other Axis powers.
The award was instituted on 1 September 1939, at the onset of the German invasion of Poland. A higher grade, the Oak Leaves to the Knight’s Cross, was instituted in 1940. In 1941, two higher grades of the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves were instituted: the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords and the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. At the end of 1944 the final grade, the Knight’s Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, was created. Over 7,000 awards were made during the course of the war.