Commemorative medal of the Austrian Republic was instituted by the Federal Law of December 21, 1932, only a quarter of a century after the Great War ended. Such a considerable delay in introduction of a decoration for frontline soldiers may be explained by the humiliation of the once great empire that had suffered incredible loss of territory and population under the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye of September 10, 1919 and faced protracted political crisis that was overcome in the beginning of 1930s only. It was not until 1932 that an attempt of national reconciliation through introduction of the long-awaited award was launched.
Competitive bidding for the best design of a decoration was announced on October 19, 1932 by the direction No.23186-I-6a/1932 of the Federal Ministry of Education (Bundesministerium für Unterricht). Laconic sketch presented by the famous Viennese sculptor and designer of Austrian commemorative and regular issue coins and medals Edwin Grienauer (07.03.1893-21.08.1964) was considered the winning bid by the contest jury. Introduction of the War Commemorative Medal was announced to the population on the Christmas eve, when a respective law, Kriegserinnerungsmedaillengesetz, was published in the Bundesgesetzblatt Nr.361/32, Austrian bulletin in which the official version of legislation was laid open to public. Thus, three types of the Kriegserinnerungsmedaille were introduced: full-size medal, miniature and lapel button to be worn with a civilian suit.
Statute of the War Commemorative Medal was published on March 23, 1933 in the 95th issue of the “Federal Bulletin” (Bundesgesetzblatt Nr.95/33).
The following Great War participants were made eligible for the decoration: former Austro-Hungarian and allied military personnel; employees of various institutions attached to headquarter staff and troops; civil servants who executed their duties for the benefit of the War Ministry according to the paragraph 4 of the Law of December 26, 1912 that was published in the “Imperial Bulletin” (Reichsgesetzblatt Nr.236), e.g. public transport personnel; soldiers wounded during hostilities; former POWs; personnel of various charitable institutions that took care of relatives of conscripts.
An obverse showed an Austrian eagle facing westwards with spread wings and outer feathers pointing downwards, standing on a shield that bears coat of arms of the Austrian Republic. Inscription in raised lettering “Für Österreich” (“For Austria”) executed in capital letters was situated below running in semicircle.
A reverse had two dates “1914-
Those eligible for decoration with the Kriegserinnerungsmedaille had to pay duty. Thus, Austrian citizens deposited 10 Schillings, while foreigners paid 15 Schillings. Out of that amount 7 Groschen were transferred to an account of Edwin Grienauer, the designer of the medal. The rest amount was sent for charitable purpose, viz. three fourth were transferred to the War victims fund of the Federal Ministry of the Social Welfare (Kriegsopferfond des Bundesministeriums für soziale Verwaltung), and a quarter was given to the Relief Fund for the Military Personnel of the Federal Army of the Federal War Ministry (Fürsorgefond für Angehörige des Bundesheeres des Bundesministeriums).
Statute of the Kriegserinnerungsmedaille was modified on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Great War end. Thus, Order of the Federal War Minister signed on November 10, 1933 (II.Durchführungsverordnung zum Kriegserinnerungsmedaillengesetz) introduced Kriegsdekoration, or Combat clasp that had a shape of gilt crossed swords to be worn attached to a ribbon. Relevant information was published in the 507th issue of the “Federal Bulletin” (Bundesgesetzblatt Nr.507/33).
War Commemorative Medal with Combat clasp, or as it was officially known, “with swords”, i.e. Kriegserinnerungsmedaille mit Schwertern, was issued to Austrian citizens, holders of three WWI awards – Tapferkeitsmedaille, Verwundetenmedaille and Karl-Truppenkreuz. Award documents for that type of medal differed from initial ones and carried its full name, “Kriegserinnerungsmedaille mit Schwertern”.
The final amendment to the statute of the War Commemorative Medal (III.Durchführungsverordnung zum Kriegserinnerungsmedaillengesetz) was made on August 03, 1934. Since then Kriegserinnerungsmedaille would be issued to military personnel with at least twelve weeks combat experience, participation in combat, wounded or taken prisoners.
War Commemorative Medal had a circular shape with a laterally-pierced loop for ribbon suspension. It was 36 mm in diameter and was manufactured of Tombac. Kriegserinnerungsmedaille was worn suspended from a traditional Austrian triangular silk ribbon of national colors: 40 mm wide white ribbon with two central 4 mm wide red stripes and 1,5 mm wide red stripes closer to both edges. Traditional bow was reserved for female recipients of an award.
Decorations with the War Commemorative Medal lasted from April 15, 1933 until March 13, 1938, i.e. until Anschluss Österreichs, or annexation of Austria into Germany. Totally 161,675 medals were issued.