Auszeichnung für vielfältige Leistung auf dem Gebiet der Leibesübungen /
Deutsches Turn- und Sportabzeichen

Badge for Various Sports Achievements / German Gymnastic and Sports Badge, a.k.a. DRA Badge

This well-known but little-studied decoration was instituted on November 10, 1912 by the German Imperial Olympic Games Committee (Deutsche Reichsausschuss für Olympische Spiele, DRA) as a “Badge for Various Sports Achievements” in three classes, gold, silver and bronze. It was Carl Diem (24.06.1882-17.12.1962), head of the German Athletic Sports Department (Deutschen Sportbehörde für Athletik) and future Secretary General of the organizing Committee of the Berlin Olympic Games who took the lead in introduction of a badge. Establishment of a badge was regarded by Carl Diem as an advantageous opportunity of propagating athletics and sports amongst German youth, but save for females. Swedish Sports Badge, or Idrottsmärke introduced by the deputy from Norrköping and board member of the Royal Swedish Sports Union Emil Mauritz Isak Löfvenius (born on 29.02.1868) was used as a prototype for a German model. Carl Diem got to know about that Swedish badge during his visit to Stockholm on the occasion of the 1912 Summer Olympics. “Necessity of introduction of an official badge for sports achievements struck me as that was the most harmonious way to popularize the very idea of enhancement of physical training”, – recollected Diem in his autobiography. Having reported his suggestions to authorities of the German Imperial Olympic Games Committee, he faced rejection from the most unexpected party, not officials but athletes. The latter considered traditional oak chaplet (Eichenkranz) laid on winner to be a genuine prize, unlike trendy badge regarded as something inferior. Moreover, they even tried to protest criteria for decoration with the badge that seemed quite effortless to them. However, general meeting of the German Imperial Olympic Games Committee having considered all the pros and cons, instituted the badge after all on November 10, 1912. Having taken into account the wishes of athletes, the new award was decided to be named ponderously “Badge for Various Sports Achievements” rather than much more concise “Sportabzeichen”, i.e. “Sports Badge”. Criteria for its presentation were largely based on those worked out by Swedish counterparts. “Having studied thoroughly all the criteria introduced by Swedish, in the upshot I arrived at the conclusion they would do for us as well”, – noted Carl Diem in his autobiography.

Those conditions were first published in March 1913 in the official newsletter of the German Imperial Olympic Games Committee, “Stadion-Kalender”. In addition to detailed description of principal sporting tests and expected results, e.g. 4,75 m long jump for athletic group II, 100-metre sprint to be completed in 13 seconds for athletic group III, etc, several sports like fencing, golf, football and ice hockey were mentioned in those regulations. However, in reality sporting tests turned out to be a pentathlon comprising of the following events aimed at “testing of heart, lungs and muscle strength, as well as dexterity, speed and physical stamina”, viz heat for 300 m; long jump or high jump; 100-, 400- and 1,500-meters race; javelin or discus throw or shot-put; 10,000-meters race or heat for 1,000 m.

As for the 2nd class of the badge, there’s a common misconception that Silver DRA Badge was supposedly instituted after the Great War, in 1919. In fact, all the three classes were introduced in 1912 but the WWI made decorations with the 2nd class impossible. Thus, according to the statute, holders of the Bronze badges had to pass proficiency tests within consecutive four years to be eligible for the Silver one. Decorations with the first Bronze badges in September 1913 made it simply impossible to proceed with further tests during war years.

The first lot of Auszeichnung für vielfältige Leistung auf dem Gebiet der Leibesübungen was presented to the winners of the Youth Games that were held in Berlin on September 07, 1913 (Berliner Jugendspielfest). For ideological considerations that contest was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the German victory over French in the Battle of Sedan (September 01, 1870), the most significant battle of the Franco-Prussian War. Altogether 22 badges cased in white boxes with embossed gilt Imperial eagle on their covers were presented to the winners.

Within two pre-war years 118 Gold (27 in 1913, 91 in 1914) and 1,145 Bronze (204 in 1913, 941 in 1914) badges were issued. All those badges were manufactured by the Berlin-based court jeweler (Hofjuwelier) Eugen Marcus.

No badges were issued during the Great War, i.e. in 1914-1919. Shortly after the badge was renamed “Deutsches Turn- und Sportabzeichen” (“German Gymnastic and Sports Badge”), since 1920 its Silver class appeared, and in 1921 award of the badge was expanded to include eligible female athletes. During the inter-war years of the 1920s and prior to 1933, Deutsches Turn- und Sportabzeichen was one of the few awards bestowed to the peacetime Reichswehr military personnel.

Overall figures for the first postwar years are as follows. 1919: 988 Bronze and 49 Gold badges; 1920: 1,055 Bronze, 99 Silver and 16 Gold badges; 1921: 3,922 Bronze, 420 Silver и 101 Gold badges.

The badge had a shape of a vertical oval oak wreath tied by a ribbon at its bottom. Three intertwined capital letters, “D”, “R” and “A” were situated in the middle of the wreath.

Deutsches Turn- und Sportabzeichen was manufactured of bronze, silvered and gilt for higher classes. Considerably rare 900. silver pieces are known to exist as well. The badge was attached to a tunic or civil attire by vertical pin and catching hook soldered to its reverse. Miniatures of the badge were introduced in 1921, and its cloth versions (Tuchabzeichen) appeared in 1924.

To make an article as complete as possible, even beyond its timeframe, it’s worth mentioning here that since July 27, 1934 German youth physical training supervision was placed under the German National Union for Physical Training (Deutsches Reichsbund für Leibesübungen, DRL). Deutsches Turn- und Sportabzeichen was replaced with a new pattern. Henceforth “DRA” abbreviation was replaced with “DRL”, ribbon tie at the bottom of the oak-leaf wreath was decorated with an additional swastika emblem.

The German Sports Badge along with the Prussian “Pour le Mérite” are the oldest German decorations still in active circulation, though modified.

Approximately 248,000 Bronze, 9,200 Silver and 4,200 Gold badges were issued within 1913-1914 and 1919-1934.

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