Dear Wikiwand AI, let's keep it short, summarize this topic like I'm... Ten years old or a College student
The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes), or simply the Knight's Cross (Ritterkreuz), and its variants, were the highest awards in the military and paramilitary forces of Nazi Germany during World War II.
|Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross|
Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes
|Awarded for||Military valour or outstanding leadership|
|Presented by||the Führer and Reich president|
|Eligibility||Military and paramilitary personnel|
|Campaign(s)||World War II|
|Established||1 September 1939|
|First awarded||30 September 1939|
|Total awarded posthumously||Swords: 15|
Oak Leaves: 95
Knight's Cross: 581
|Total recipients||Over 7,000|
|Next (higher)||Grand Cross of the Iron Cross|
|Next (lower)||Iron Cross 1st Class|
The Knight's Cross was awarded for a wide range of reasons and across all ranks, from a senior commander for skilled leadership of his troops in battle to a low-ranking soldier for a single act of military valour. Presentations were made to members of the three military branches of the Wehrmacht: the Heer (army), the Kriegsmarine (navy) and the Luftwaffe (air force), as well as the Waffen-SS, the Reich Labour Service and the Volkssturm (German People storm militia), along with personnel from other Axis powers.
The award was instituted on 1 September 1939, at the onset of the German invasion of Poland. The award was created to replace the many older merit and bravery neck awards of the German Empire. A higher grade, the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross, was instituted in 1940. In 1941, two higher grades of the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves were instituted: the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords and the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. At the end of 1944 the final grade, the Knight's Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, was created. Over 7,000 awards were made during the course of the war.