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Deutsches Schutzwall-Ehrenzeichen, a.k.a. Westwall-Medaille

Westwall Medal

Medal was instituted on August 02, 1939 and awarded to military personnel, members of paramilitary organizations and civilians who participated in design and construction of fortifications on Germany western borders – “Der Westwall”, better known in English literature as “The Siegfried Line” (“Siegfriedstellung”) during June 15, 1938 – March 31, 1939. Construction workers had to be working there for at least ten weeks to be eligible for award.

The Westwall Medal was also awarded to military personnel who were stationed on these fortifications prior to May 1940 for at least three weeks.

Initially this medal was awarded until January 31, 1941 and from this date onwards decorations were stopped. By January 31, 1941 622,064 medals were awarded.

Due to the successful Allied landings in Normandy in the beginning of June 1944 and the following allied advance about 200,000 engineers and workers from the Organisation Todt were sent to the Westwall fortifications to renovate and strengthen them. To keep the moral of this workforce high the Westwall Medal was reinstituted on October 10, 1944.

Construction workers who had been working on the Siegfried Line after June 06, 1944 and military personnel who had been stationed on the Siegfried Line after that date were eligible for award.

Westwall Medal has an oval shape and is 40mm high and 33mm wide. It was made of bronze or brass (1939-1940 issue) and zinc with bronze finish (1944). Nevertheless unissued bronze medals were awarded after reinstitution as well.

Medal was designed by professor Richard Klein (07.01.1890 – 31.07.1967).

The outer edge of obverse and reverse is formed by a wreath formed by eight oak leaves on each side bounded together at the bottom and top by a ribbon.

An obverse has three major elements placed vertically: dug-in pillbox referring to the Westwall fortification with two gun ports, left one being a bit smaller than the right one. Two small hills visible at the bottom represent grass hills that surrounded operation area. Crossed sword and spade in the middle symbolize efforts of military personnel and civilians in construction of the Siegfried Line. The upper element is an eagle with spread wings that is clutching a wreath with swastika in its claws, the tips of the eagle’s wings stretch till the outer edge of the obverse. The total motive is surrounded by a thin raised line.

A reverse contains a legend that runs horizontally in six rows “For work in the Defence of Germany” (“Für Arbeit Zum Schutze Deutschlands”).

The 30 mm wide ribbon is golden brown in color and has two vertical 4,5 mm wide white stripes towards each edge. The 1,5 mm wide space at both edges remain golden brown.

Deutsches Schutzwall-Ehrenzeichen was first awarded on November 23, 1939. On that day Adolf Hitler himself presented medals to General der Infanterie Erwin von Witzleben (Job Wilhelm Georg Erwin Erdmann von Witzleben, 04.12.1881 – 08.08.1944), General der Flieger Karl Kitzinger (18.04.1886 – 14.04.1962), head of the “Organisation Todt” Dr.Fritz Todt (04.09.1891 – 08.02.1942), head of Reichsarbeitsdienst (RAD) Konstantin Hierl (24.02.1875 – 23.09.1955), leader of Deutsche Arbeitsfront (DAF) Robert Ley (15.02.1890 – 25.10.1945) and General der Pioniere Alfred Jacob (01.04.1883 – 13.11.1963).

The first group of distinguished construction workers were decorated the next day by Dr.Fritz Todt.

Westwall Medal was presented in a vertical light brown or grey paper packet with the award name stenciled on it in Gothic letters. In some cases the medal was awarded in a box.

For those who participated in strengthening of the Siegfried Line in 1944 but were already awarded with the Westwall Medal in 1939-40, a special clasp was authorized to be worn on the ribbon (Spange zum Schutzwall-Ehrenzeichen). As this additional award was never produced and issued its exact design is not known yet.

A version exists that it was made in a shape of a horizontal rectangular bronze bar bearing a date “1944” that stood for the reinstitution of Deutsches Schutzwall-Ehrenzeichen.

According to other sources that clasp had a shape of a round wreath made of oak leaves with crossed sword and spade superimposed on its centre. An Imperial eagle with outstretched wings holding swastika in its claws was reportedly placed above.

TR_old_72  Westwall 1