Germany Discusses Return of the Iron Cross

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Germany Discusses Return of the Iron Cross

Postby Jason Pipes » Thu Mar 06, 2008 2:06 pm

Germany Discusses Return of the Iron Cross

A leader of German military reservists has called for the reintroduction of the Iron Cross, a centuries-old soldier's honor marred by the Nazis. But some say the medal is too burdened by its own past.

Back when it was introduced in the 1800s, the Iron Cross was meant to reward soldiers for heroism on the field of battle. It was a medal not much different from the Congressional Medal of Honor awarded to US soldiers. But in World War II, the medal came to symbolize the Nazis and their demonic ambitions -- and after the war, it disappeared.

Now, though, a representative of German soldiers wants to bring back the Iron Cross. At a meeting of an association of German reservists in Berlin on Tuesday, the group's president, Ernst-Reinhard Beck -- also a member of Germany's parliament, the Bundestag -- suggested that the medal be reintroduced for those who show "extraordinary courage or bravery."

Beck granted that the symbol is historically problematic, saying that "under this symbol, a lot of fear and horror was spread" throughout Europe. But, he pointed out, the Iron Cross symbol now appears on all aircraft, ships and ground vehicles belonging to the German military. From the Balkans to Afghanistan, Beck said, it has become a "symbol of help and solidarity."

German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung responded to the plea in a speech at the same event, saying that it was indeed time to reward courageous soldiers. At present, Germany hands out medals to soldiers who serve in foreign missions for four months or more. There is also an "honor cross" for soldiers who are particularly loyal. Courage on the battlefield, however, goes unrewarded in the Bundeswehr.

Still, the idea of bringing back the Iron Cross is one that makes many Germans nervous. It was introduced in 1813 during the rule of King Friedrich Wilhelm III. But Adolf Hitler received an Iron Cross during his World War I service and, in 1939, added a swastika to the center of the traditional design. The medal became a symbol of Nazi Germany's attempt to conquer Europe.

There has long been a petition in the Berlin parliament to bring back the Iron Cross. But enthusiasm has been decidedly limited. A military expert for the business friendly FDP said this week that Jung "should concern himself more with the equipment soldiers really need for foreign missions" than with "metal on their breasts." SPD parliamentarian Rainer Arnold was more to the point. The Iron Cross, he said, "is too burdened by history."

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,539802,00.html
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Postby Jason Pipes » Thu Mar 06, 2008 2:11 pm

Some interesting comments in that article from Spiegel. For one thing the Iron Cross is not technically the equal of the CMoH, it would be more akin to the silver star or something along those lines. The Knights Cross of the Iron Cross would be the equal of the CMoH, as far as I am aware. In addition versions of both the Iron Cross and the Knights Cross with swastika removed were ok'd for official production and wear after WWII for those awarded them during the war.
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Postby Jason Pipes » Thu Mar 06, 2008 2:28 pm

Another article, this time from BBC.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7281434.stm
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Postby Jason Pipes » Thu Mar 06, 2008 2:32 pm

Politics and historical issues aside it's a shame there isn't already a proper way to honor troops in the modern Bundeswehr for bravery. I suppose to do so would be to let go of the notion that the German military shouldn't be used in combat (bravery is most often associated with combat). Since they have been involved in combat situations since the late 1990s one would think it was a moot point.
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Postby nondescript handle » Thu Mar 06, 2008 3:14 pm

Today Federal President Köhler announced that he will authorize the Minister of Defence (the CiC during peace time) to create a new class of the "Honor Cross of the Bundeswehr" which will be awarded solely for bravery.

In addition the existing classes (gold, silver, and bronze) will be split in two divisions: one for "exemplary service" (like today), and one for "outstanding acts."

see e.g. (in German): http://www.stuttgarter-zeitung.de/stz/p ... hp/1653627
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Re: Germany Discusses Return of the Iron Cross

Postby oldbobg » Sun Apr 13, 2008 8:00 am

It seems reasonable and prudent to be concerned about this medal; however, there is more history to it than the Nazi era. Germany today is country modernly defined and understanding of democratic priciples. I think it is about time, that if it has joined the world as a partner nation for freedom, they should have valor decorations of thier own choice, whether it be named the Iron Cross or not. I look at them now as freind, not foe and not treated any other way. Let their internal workings and management be their own. Just an opinion. Anything is changable.
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Re: Germany Discusses Return of the Iron Cross

Postby sniper1shot » Sun Apr 13, 2008 1:49 pm

there is more history to it than the Nazi era.


Exactly. It is part of German history and people should wake up.

Canada did do away w/the Victoria Cross awhile back, and brought our own new medals into the system. Where we still had VC winners wearing it and the public outcry was loud and clear the Gov't brought it back though w/a small difference.
Instead of the For Valour in English as on British medals, the Canadian version says For Valour in Latin.
Only he is lost who gives himself up as lost.
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