Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross facts for kids
Quick facts for kidsKnight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes
|Awarded by the Führer and Reich president|
|Eligibility||Military and paramilitary personnel|
|Awarded for||Military valour or outstanding leadership|
|Campaign(s)||World War II|
|Established||1 September 1939|
|First awarded||30 September 1939|
Oak Leaves: 95
Knight's Cross: 581
|Next (higher)||Grand Cross of the Iron Cross|
|Next (lower)||Iron Cross 1st Class|
The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross or simply the Knight's Cross and its variants were the highest awards in the military and paramilitary forces of Nazi Germany during World War II. The Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm III established the Iron Cross at the beginning of the German campaign as part of the Napoleonic Wars. The design was a silver-framed cast iron cross on 13 March 1813. Iron was a material which symbolised defiance and reflected the spirit of the age.
With the outbreak of World War II on 1 September 1939, Adolf Hitler in his role as commander in chief of the German armed forces decreed the renewal of the Iron Cross of 1939. A new grade of the Iron Cross series was introduced, the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, without distinction, was awarded to officers and soldiers alike, conforming with the National Socialist slogan: "One people, one nation, one leader".
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.
As the war progressed four additional years, leaders had to distinguish those who had already won the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross or one of the higher grades and who continued to show merit in combat bravery or military success. The Knight's Cross was eventually awarded in five grades:
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves and Swords, and Diamonds
Analysis of the German Federal Archives revealed evidence for 7,161 recipients. The German Federal Archives confirm 863 awards of the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross, along with the 147 Swords and 27 Diamonds awards. The Golden Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross was awarded only once, to Hans-Ulrich Rudel on 29 December 1944.
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