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Deutsche Ehrendenkmünze des Weltkrieges

German Honorary Commemorative Badge of the World War

Unlike great number of various post-war commemorative badges that were issued by countless veterans associations all across the Weimar Republic thus gaining profit and fame, German Honorary Commemorative Badge of the World War boasts quite extraordinary origin. It might well be an official German decoration be it instituted as far back as autumn 1917, when necessity of introduction of a commemorative badge for front-fighters had been discussed by the great officers of the German Empire. Having enjoyed support from the Emperor Wilhelm II himself and several German rulers, the idea was put into life by a renowned German artist Franz Stassen (12.02.1869-18.04.1949) who elaborated design of the medal in July 1918. March of history was anything but favourable though, and the very idea was well forgotten amidst the worst crisis the Empire ever encountered – loss of war, abolition of monarchy, dissolution of a state and menace of revolution.     

Nevertheless, Ehrendenkmünze des Weltkrieges rose like Phoenix from its ashes due to efforts of the post-war Berlin-based Union of Nationalist Soldiers (Verband nationalgesinnter Soldaten) that had its own Council of the Order (Ordensrat) focusing on various aspects of introduction of that badge. Shortly before the Union was banned by the Weimar authorities, Council of the Order of the German Honorary Commemorative Badge of the World War (Ordensrat der Deutschen Ehrendenkmünze des Weltkrieges) managed to institute itself as an independent body, moved to the Bavarian city of Buxheim and set up its Charter on September 21, 1921. The Council was headed by the Honorary Marshal (Ehrenmarschall), a position held by the Generaloberst Karl Wilhelm Georg August Gottfried von Einem genannt von Rothmaler (01.01.1853-07.04.1934), former Prussian War Minister (1903-1909) and commander of the 3rd Army during the Great War. Another prominent leader of the Council was its chancellor, retired Hauptmann (Hauptmann außer Dienst) Rudolph Hering-Deutschwehr who held that position until his retirement in 1924. It’s worth mentioning here that it was Hering-Deutschwehr who took the lead in introduction of the Deutsche Ehrendenkmünze des Weltkrieges. Holders of a German Honorary Commemorative Badge of the World War could, if they wished so, be entered in the so-called German Legion of Honour (Deutschen Ehrenlegion), an organization which name was derived from the French La Légion d'honneur. Deutschen Ehrenlegion was divided into “Knights’ groups” and its members could call themselves “Knight of the German Legion of Honour”. Apropos, Generaloberst Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff (09.04.1865-20.12.1937), Generalfeldmarschall Karl Wilhelm Paul von Bülow (24.03.1846-31.08.1921) and famous Freikorps commander Oberleutnant Gerhard Roßbach (28.02.1893-30.08.1967) were among its prominent members. Administration of the Council of the Order concurrently was a governing body of the German Legion of Honour. The Council moved to Mecklenburg in 1924 and finally returned to Berlin in 1927.

According to the statute of the Deutsche Ehrendenkmünze des Weltkrieges that was published on December 01, 1922, it was instituted as “a token of remembrance of the fallen, a recognition of the surviving [veterans] and an example for the future generations”. It was awarded to veterans and civilians, men or women who faithfully served their Fatherland during the Great War. Combat experience wasn’t a compulsory condition for decoration with a badge, patriotic spirit and former merits for the benefit of Germany during war and peace were deemed sufficient. Interesting to know is that that being instituted after the Great War despite wartime efforts that failed, Deutsche Ehrendenkmünze des Weltkrieges was issued “on behalf” (“in Vertretung”) of the exiled German Emperor Wilhelm II, who, however, abstracted away from that noble initiative. 

German Honorary Commemorative Badge of the World War had a shape of a drop-shaped circular medal, 36x32 mm with a hole for suspension in its upper part.

An obverse had an allegoric design showing a tunic-clad winged goddess of victory crowning a bareheaded German soldier in a filed uniform with an olive wreath. Soldier held a steel helmet in his right hand and a rifle in his left hand. It’s worth mentioning here that the initial design of an obverse created by Franz Stassen in July 1918 proposed an image of the Emperor Wilhelm II.

A reverse had an image of an obverse of the Prussian Iron Cross 1st Class model 1914 surrounded by oak branches at its bottom. An inscription “For Fatherland” (“Fürs Vaterland”) in capital Gothic letters ran above in semicircle.

Frontline veterans were issued with a special award document that allowed them to buy a commemorative combat emblem (Kampfabzeichen) that was attached to a ribbon. It had a shape of a circular gilt laurel wreath, 18 mm in diameter with a sword across pointing upwards measuring 34x1,5 mm. Those not able to present a proof of combat experience were allowed to swear solemnly. 

Deutsche Ehrendenkmünze des Weltkrieges was manufactured of gilt bronze and was worn on the left side of the breast on a silk ribbon that symbolized colours of the German Imperial flag. Thus, the ribbon was white with a central 8 mm wide black stripe flanked by two 1 mm wide red stripes and two 1 mm wide black stripes at its edges.

As all the other post-war unofficial commemorative badges, German Honorary Commemorative Badge of the World War had to be privately purchased by veterans or those deemed eligible for a decoration upon presentation of an award document.

According to a Decree published on November 14, 1935 (Verordnung zur Ausführung des Gesetzes über Titel, Orden und Ehrenzeichen vom 14.November 1935) that put into effect a Supplement to the Law regarding state awards of April 07, 1933, wearing of a Deutsche Ehrendenkmünze des Weltkrieges was prohibited. Nevertheless, those regulations were sometimes violated. As for the Ordensrat der Deutschen Ehrendenkmünze des Weltkrieges, it held its final meeting on July 28, 1934 after which it was disbanded, and Deutschen Ehrenlegion members were incorporated into the official veterans’ organization Kyffhäuser-Bund soon after.

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