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Knights Cross
The Knights Cross was the natural successor to the Imperial Pour le Merite, known winners of the coveted WW1 bravery award include:Fieldmarshall Erwin Rommel and Hermann Goring.The 1939 Knights Cross of the Iron Cross consisted of a cast iron centre which bore on the face a Swastika in the centre and the date of institution 1939 in the lower arm.The reverse had the date 1813 the original date of the Iron Cross institution.The centre was held within a two part silver frame featuring a beaded inner edge and a smooth outer edge.The beaded edge was finished in matt white silver oxide whilst the outer edge was burnished to a mirror finish. In almost every case,the Swastika in the centre is level with the height of the beaded edge,whereas on many spurious post war copies,the Swastika is much lower.In the centre of the upper arm was a small eyelet through which the ribbon loop passed.On the reverse of the upper arm of the frame there was a small silver content mark,800, indicating 800 parts per 1000 purity.The ribbon loop,consisting of an oval coil of silver wire,was also usually hallmarked with the ‘800’ silver content mark.Normally,only the silver content mark is found on the cross,however,the esteemd Berlin firm of C.E.Juncker,whose code number was L/12 can be found.The cross was presented in a small rectangular case measuring155mmx85mmx27mm.The outer surface was covered in black simulated leather devoid of any motif.The lid interior was finished in padded white satin or silk,whilst the base was covered in black velvet, and  was fitted to accept the shape of the award.A recess was also provided for the ribbon.The case was fastened by a small spring clip.The ribbon for the cross was the same colours as the Iron cross 2nd Class,but it was wider,45mm.The ribbon was fastened around the neck by a variety of methods,including press studs,tie strings and elastic.When an award was made,the recipient’s Commanding officer would be notified by telegram that Hitler had approved the award.The Commanding Officer of the recipient’s unit or the Commander of the parent unit would receive a typed Preliminary Certificate or Vorlaufiges Besitzzeugnis and present it to the recipient.The preliminary certificate was a simple printed document bearing Vorlaufiges Besitzzuegnis at the centre top. followed by a small Iron Cross motif.It was originally intended that each recipient would be presented with a large,formal  Urkunde and Hitler assembled a team of finest artisans to produce these magnificent pieces.This Urkunde consisted of a large 700 x 430mm parchment vellum sheet folded in half to produce four pages.The facing page was hand-lettered.At the bottom of the page was the original signature of Adolf Hitler.Apart from the recipient’s name which was hand-lettered in gold leaf and Hitler’s signature the whole design was executed in red brown ink.This elaborate document was contained in a leather folder lined with parchment. The face of the folder was embossed with a large Eagle and Swastika in gold leaf.Just inside the rear cover was the name of the  binder,Frieda Thiersch,in gold leaf.Both the Vorlaufiges Besizzeugnis and the Urkunde are extremely rare and are highly sought after by collectors.Hence,the value of these items is very high and this has led to some very expert forgeries appearing.Instituted on 15th July 1941,the Swords were a traditional German device and may be found on a number of German awards.The  Swords to the Knights  Cross consisted of two crossed swords at an angle of 40 degrees with the right hand blade uppermost.The overall size was 25mm x 10 mm.These Swords were welded to the base of a relacement set of Oakleaves and were never awarded  on their own.The official award pieces were detailed on both obverse and reverse faces,although the Oakleaves remained blank on the reverse apart from the maker’s mark and silver content.Also awarded were the Swords,Oakleaves and Diamonds plus  the Golden Swords, Oakleaves and Diamonds which was instituted on 29th december 1944 produced by Godet of Berlin and was  only ever awarded to Stuka pilot Oberst Hans Ulrich Rudel no special documents were produced for this award as far as is known.
Reccommended reading ‘Knights of the Iron Cross A History 1939-1945’
By Gordon Williamson Blandford Press 1987
Knights Cross