Friday, March 21, 2008

Prussian Iron Cross to Make a Comeback?

Efforts to Restore Shine to Medal Tarnished by Nazis

BERLIN — The German Army today has no awards for courage, only for attendance. The painful debate here over reviving the famed Iron Cross to fill that gap underscores how distant Germany remains from normality when it comes to the military.

The history of the Iron Cross, designed by the noted German architect and painter Karl Friedrich Schinkel, dates from 1813 and the Prussian War of Liberation against Napoleon. But as is so often the case here, it is the Nazi history that takes precedence.

What frustrates ... supporters of the Iron Cross is that they see it as having emerged from an era about which they believe Germans could be proud and should learn more.

“This was part and parcel of the famous Prussian enlightened reform era, which included, a year earlier in 1812, Jewish emancipation, legal rights for Jewish citizens,” said Michael Wolffsohn, a professor of modern history at the University of the Bundeswehr in Munich.

From Wikipedia:
The Iron Cross was founded on 10 March 1813 in Breslau and awarded to soldiers during the Wars of Liberation against Napoleon. King William I of Prussia authorized further awards on 19 July 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War. Recipients of the 1870 Iron Cross who were still in service in 1895 were authorized to purchase a 25-year clasp consisting of the numerals "25" on three oak leaves. The Iron Cross was reauthorized by Emperor William II on 5 August 1914, at the start of the First World War. During these three periods, the Iron Cross was an award of the Kingdom of Prussia, although given Prussia's preeminent place in the German Empire formed in 1871, it tended to be treated as a generic German decoration.

Breslau (German) / Wroclaw (Polish) is the Capital of Silesia

From The Daily Mail:

A defense ministry source said: "Hitler won the Iron Cross first class in WW1 and we cannot have accusations that we are bringing back something that was revered by him. He regarded his medal as the high mark of his life before he gained power as dictator of Nazi Germany."
What about Volkswagens, let alone the U.S. Army's adaptation of the 3rd Reich style military helmets?

Interestingly, none of these news articles mention the earlier use of the Iron Cross by the Roman Catholic Teutonic Order that was founded in Acre within modern day Israel, and which invaded Prussia (that is, the area later known as East Prussia) in 1230, which later, in 1525, became a Lutheran ruled state with the conversion of Brandenburg Grand Master Albert and his taking the title Duke of Prussia.

Again, the media disregards religious history.


Steve said...

The symbol under attack has graced West (and now all) German aircraft and mobile armed forces vehicles for years; why not now allow soldiers to wear the same symbol as signification of an act of heroism? One recalls that today a 'Luftwaffe' exists in the German military - even if Hermann Goering, major war criminal headed its immediate predecessor organization. I would imagine Londoners don't much like the term's use in modern day...
It seems to me there is ONE key point to the argument against the "Iron Cross" bing reinstated as a decoration for military valor under combat conditions: the WWII medal bears a small swastika at the center of the cross. So odious and powerful is the modern meaning of what once signified better things to ancient peoples that it is illegal to display the Hooked Cross in Germany.

It also is my understanding that awarding of the EK grew so frequent in WWII that its traditional uniqueness was lost.

In this regard, a question: If a WWI German veteran received the EK 2 or EK1 - can he legally display it on the German Memorial Day? That 'version' of the decoration bears a 'W' at the center axis - in the name of Wilhelm (who awarded it).

A person not interested in the entire history of the EK easily can reject its instatement in the today's quite diferent German military. But German soldiers are in Afghanistan and Kosovo - and as such go in harm's way.
Whether we like it or not, the EK decoration, properly reestablished and strictly overseen by parliamentary policies and MoD control, can serve a warfighting organization's proper needs for recognizing heroes.

Steve in PA

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