Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Military award of Nazi Germany / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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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.

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Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes
TypeNeck decoration
Awarded forMilitary valour or outstanding leadership
Country Nazi Germany
Presented bythe Führer and Reich president
EligibilityMilitary and paramilitary personnel
Campaign(s)World War II
Established1 September 1939
First awarded30 September 1939
Total awarded posthumouslySwords: 15
Oak Leaves: 95
Knight's Cross: 581
Total recipientsOver 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.