by Chris William
Better known as the “Hindenburg Cross”
On July 13, 1934, Field Marshall Paul Von Hindenburg, Military hero of the German state and reelected Weimer president, designated the only national award given for World War One participants at the beginning of what was to become Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime. Officially called the Ehrenkreuz des Weltkriegs, 1914/1918 (“Honor Cross of the Word War, 1914/1918”), the newly created medal was known for its benefactor as the Hindenburg cross.
The Hindenburg Cross was awarded in three forms: Frontkämpfer (combatants), Andere Kriegsteilnehmer (non-combatants) and Witwen und Eltern (Widows and Parents of deceased soldiers). All three of the 38mm awards were designed by Eugene Godet of Berlin, and took the form of Maltese crosses with solid circular wreaths and trailing downward ribbons across the center. Inside of each circle was contained the dates “1914” and “1918.” The bronze-colored Combatants Cross had a wreath made of laurel leaves with crossed, point-up swords protruding from the four corners of the cross.
The reverse of the cross was plain with only a maker’s mark or number. A suspension ring was welded to the upper arm which connected to a ring mounted tri-colored ribbon of black, white, black, red, black, white black.
The Non-combatants Cross was of the same design and finish as that of the Combatants, but lacked the swords and had wreaths of oak leaves rather than laurel leaves. The suspension ribbon was the same color and design.
The Widows and Parents Cross was the same design as the Non-combatants, but was finished in black rather than a bronze color and had a tri-colored ribbon of white, black, white, red, white, black, white.
A private purchase model with pin back catch (31.5mm) was available, though not sanctioned as an official award. In addition, miniature versions were sold to recipients as stickpins, lapel pins or ribbon bars.
The Cross of Honor was presented in a paper packet or presentation case along with a corresponding award document. Crosses could be worn as single medals on the left front of military, paramilitary or civilian coats, or suspended from a medal bar with other awards.
The cross was highly regarded and took precedence over other service medals, but ranked below combat-related pieces. Crosses for widows and mothers were often suspended from ribbons fashioned into bows with attaching pins. As new territories (such as Austria) were added to the Reich, WWI veterans and relatives were awarded Crosses of Honor for their time in service.