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Knight's Cross to the Iron Cross Hanns Honscheid receiving Knights Cross

Johannes-Matthias "Hanns" Hönscheid receiving Knights Cross

Wehrmacht Captain in Russia with Knight's Cross

Unidentified Wehrmacht Captain in Russia with Knight's Cross

Bundesarchiv Photos / CC-BY-SA [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de], via Wikimedia Commons

Knight's Cross to the Iron Cross

German Medal of WWII

By , Nov. 2008. Updated July 17, 2011.

In September 1939, the Germans instituted the Knights Cross to the Iron Cross, to bridge the gap that existed between the Iron Cross 1st Class (awarded to thousands) and the Grand Cross to the Iron Cross (which was intended to only be awarded to a handful of recipients).

A new grade of the Iron Cross, the Knight's Cross, could be distributed to dozens or hundreds, yet would still remain an elite award. As the war continued, new grades, each increasingly more distinguished, were introduced: the Oak Leaves, the Swords, and the Diamonds. All these grades of the Knight's Cross had tremendous propaganda power and as the highest award for the Third Reich's armed forces, it has been very popular among collectors. It was awarded to both officers and enlisted men in the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS or their service organizations.

The first four articles of the "Enactment regarding the renewing of the Iron Cross" (September, 1939) follow:

Article 1

The Iron Cross will be awarded in the following grades and order:

Iron Cross 2nd Class
Iron Cross 1st Class
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Grand Cross of the Iron Cross

Article 2

The Iron Cross is exclusively awarded for bravery before the enemy and for excellent merits in commanding troops. The award of a higher class must be preceded by the award of all preceding classes.

Article 3

I [Adolf Hitler] reserve for myself the power to award the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross, for superior actions that decisively influence the course of the war.

Article 4

The 2nd Class and 1st Class are of the same size and format as previous versions with the exception that the front sides bears the swastika and the date 1939.

The 2nd Class is worn on a black-white-red band in the buttonhole or clasp, the 1st Class without band on the left breast side. The Knight's Cross is larger in size than the Iron Cross 1st Class and is worn around the neck (neck order) with a black-white-red band. The Grand Cross is approximately twice the size of the Iron Cross 1st Class, a golden trim instead of the silver trim and is worn around the neck with a broader black-white-red band.

Johannes-Matthias "Hanns" Hönscheid

Shown being awarded the Ritterkreuz, "Hanns" Hönscheid was a highly decorated Leutnant der Reserve in the Fallschirmj√§ger (paratroops) during World War II. Hönscheid was the only war correspondent in the Wehrmacht to receive the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.