Sunday 26 February 2012

The German Order - Golden Cross with Laurel Wreath and Swords 1st Class

The German Order - Golden Cross with Laurel Wreath and Swords 1st Class.

Instituted on 11th February 1942.
Rarity – Extremely Rare.
Known Makers – Wilhelm Deumer.

This order comprises of a cross of a part‚e or formy type, which is described as one that has arms curving outwards with straight ends, as is illustrated in the case of the Iron Cross Second Class.  The measurement across the arms is 48.5 mm, with the ends of the arms measuring 21 mm.  Round the edge of each of the arms runs a small raised edge line that measures 1 mm.  The outer edges of the arms of the cross are chamfered to form a central spine.  The thickness of the arms of the cross is 2.5 mm.  At the centre of the arms is a central medallion which measures 20.5 mm.  The central fields of the arms are infilled with black opaque enamel.  Into the quarters of the arms are placed eagles with semi furled wings and clutching an oak leaf wreath with a swastika within it, in their talons.  Each eagle's head faces to the viewer's right and is clearly defined.  The eagles' heads on copies of this award are poorly defined and reminiscent of chickens' heads.  The wings have a raised outer edge that runs from the eagle's body round to the point where the wing touches the outer edge of the arm of the cross.  The upper part of each of the wings is divided into two lines of distinct feathers, numbering five in the top and six in the bottom.  Running downwards are three lines of fletch with a gap between the inner line and the body of the eagle and the wreath.  The bottom of the wreath just touches the outer edge of the central boss.  The body of the eagle is crosshatched to represent the fletching.  The height of the eagle from the bottom of the wreath to the top of the head is 12 mm and the wingspan is 13 mm.  The thickness of the eagles across their chests is 2.5 mm.  Laid on top of the black opaque enamel field is a line 1.5 mm wide, made up of individual oak leaves, tip on stalk.  On the lines emanating from the central boss there are four individual oak leaves and on the ends, a further four but split into two and diagonally opposed.  The oak leaf line is held on to the body of the cross at the central boss by a round plate that has a small Golden Party Badge attached to it.  This is constructed in the same manner as that described in The Golden Party Badge 24mm, but in this case the oak leaf wreath measures 2.5 mm and was made up of seven oak leaves on either side of the tie.  Under the oak leaves are the lines that have been referred to as 'railway ties'.  At the centre is a panel which measures 15.5 mm and is convexed.  It has a fine raised edge line with a similar one inset by 0.5 mm.  The field thus produced is infilled with white opaque enamel.  There is a further line inset by 2.5 mm and this field has the inscription, 'NATIONAL - SOZIALISTISCHE - D. A. P. -', running round in capital letters with the rest of the field being finely pebbled.  The whole field is infilled with brick red translucent enamel.  The centre has a swastika with raised edge lines with the resultant fields infilled with opaque black enamel.  The swastika measures 7 mm across the tips of the arms, the rest of the field is infilled with opaque white enamel.  The cross has a thickness of 6 mm measured at the centre of the swastika.

At the top of the upper arm of the cross is a wreath of laurel leaves.  This is a very important observation as it has been described erroneously as an oak leaf wreath.  The wreath has an open bottom and is attached to the body of the cross on to the top of the spine on the upper edge.

The gap measures 1.5 mm and is punctuated on either side by an elongated diagonally cut leaf stalk that has two laurel berries at the top of the resultant inverted 'V'.  Above this are three laurel leaves, the central one just overlapping its adjacent neighbour.  The tips of the three leaves are in a straight line.  At this point a double bided sword is placed with a counterpart on the other side that cross at the centre of the wreath.  The quillons of the sword are downward swept and the lower edge is fixed to the tip of the upper arm of the cross.  The quillon measures 9 mm and the handle has five rings and a round pommel.  The length of the sword pommel to blade tip is 38 mm.  Between the blades of the swords are three more laurel leaves and on the outer edge, just above the lower sword blade and just beneath the upper one, is placed a laurel berry.  Above the upper sword blade on either side of two small laurel leaves, are two further berries.  The apex of the laurel wreath is open but it has a small connecting round rod.  On to this is placed the neck ribbon suspender.  The delicacy of this method of mounting would indicate that this award was not intended for wear, also the overall length of the suspender would make the cross hang very low when suspended from the neck.  The two known photographs of the medal on the funeral pillows of Dr. Fritz Todt and SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich show the award on the pillow without the neck ribbon.  This also gives rise to the supposition that this award was intended as a posthumous award.  The suspender has a 4 mm piece of flat Tomback that is bent round the rod and on the obverse it has two single oak leaves formed in a 'V'.  From the top protrusion of the inner edge of each leaf is attached the side of the oak leaf wreath of the national emblem.  The gap between is voided.  The leaves measure 8.5 mm.  The national emblem of the eagle holding a swastika within an oak leaf wreath, has a measurement of 19 mm across the wing tips and 11 mm from the base of the oak leaf wreath to the tip of the eagle's head.  This emblem is laid on to a slightly outwardly tapering clip that has, laid on to it, two oak leaves, the lower one with its tip under the eagle's head and its top just over the stalk of the upper one.  The clip is gently rolled over at this point and runs unadorned down to the bottom of the oak leaf wreath on the reverse.  The total measurement from the base of the two oak leaves to the top of the suspender is 34 mm.

The reverse of the neck ribbon suspender is plain and flat and that of the cross, swords and laurel wreath is the same as described on the obverse, as are the eagles in the quarters of the cross's arms, thus their heads look in the opposite direction.  The arms of the cross have an 0.5 mm line that is indented by 1 mm.  The central part of the cross has a flat, round medallion with a 1 mm edge line and on to the centre of this is placed Adolf Hitler's signature.  The fields of the arms of the cross and the medallion are infilled with black opaque enamel.  The metal parts of the cross are gilded with the relevant parts of the Golden Party Badge being in silver.  However, it was reported that the first examples were produced with all the metal gilded.  Upon presentation to Berlin, Hitler was irate and further production had to be completed as proscribed.  The cross was produced from Tomback.  It has also been reported that some examples were produced from silver however, from the examples studied, it has only been possible to verify that the two examples were definitely constructed from Tomback as the gilding had taken on a distinctive red, old gold, colour.  The cross was produced by the firm of Wilhelm Deumer of Ludenscheid and, according to Albert Speer, the basic design for the German Order was executed by Bennow von Arendt in response to a commission from Hitler who had taken a personal interest in the design of the Order as well as the need for its creation.

Arent Benno -Georg-Eduard-Joachim von Prof. - SS-Oberführer.

He also perceived the need for an all encompassing Party award and decreed that the ribbon for the cross was that designated for the Blood Order.  This encompassed the first and second patterns, In the case of this cross the band measured 45 mm with a black 2 mm edge stripe, 2 mm white stripe and 37 mm brick-red panel.  The ribbon was produced by the firm of Karl Loy of München.  There is another form of neckband that was identical in colour but measures 36 mm with a 3 mm black edge stripe, 2.5 mm white stripe and a central
25 mm brick-red panel.  The citation for this degree of the order is unknown but it is presumed to be an elaborate affair akin to that which was awarded to Konstantin Hierl.

The presentation case is dark red and void of any distinctive markings.  The interior of the lid is white satin while the lower section is burgundy velvet.  The lower section is compartmented to house the cross and the suspension loop.  Another version of the presentation case has the exterior in red, while the lower interior is grey velvet and a white interior lid.  

An interesting display case showing the Golden Party Badge in two sizes, punctuated by a NSDAP Party badge, the Silver Party Badge in two sizes. Beneth in order are three grades of the German Order.

The German Order was introduced on 11th February 1942 by Adolf Hitler when he personally designated it as the Party's highest decoration.  The insight behind his thinking is noted by Bormann's adjutant Heinrich Heims, that on 10th and 11th November 1941 Hitler produced a monologue on the need for a Party order.  This was to encompass the Golden Party Badge, as designed by the München Meister-Goldschmidt Joseph Fuess, at the centre of the order, bearing Hitler's signature on the reverse.  The choice of the ribbon was obviously to draw the other highest party award, the Blood Order, into the heraldic and ideological mix that was so important to Hitler and his perception of Nazi traditions.

The monologue from a numismatical point of view is important for a number of reasons and I have included it in German so that none of the sense is lost in the translation.

"Damit ich der Gefahr der Entwertung entgehe, schaffe ich einen Parteiorden mit Maβgabe, daβ er nur sparsam verteilt wird und alles andere damit in den Schatten stellt.  Mag der Staat dann verleihen, was er will; diese Auszeichnungen werden sicher nicht nur die schönsten in der Form, sondern auch die geachtetsten in der Welt sein.  Ein Ordenskapitel, bestehend aus Ordensrat und Ordensgericht, beiges getrennt and unmittelbar dem Führer unterstellt, sorgt dafur, daβ kein Unwurdiger die Auszeichnungen erhölt.  Es gibt Leistungen, fur welche unter Umstönden uberhaupt keine Beförderung ausgesprochen werden kann.  Die Taten von 200 Ritterkreuztrögern wiegen eine einmalige Leistung, wie die zum Beispiel von Todt, nicht auf."

'In order to escape any danger of devaluation I am creating a Party decoration with the condition that it will be distributed only sparingly and put all others into the shade.  After that the State may award whatsoever.  These decorations will not only be the most beautiful in shape, (form), but also the most respected in the world.  A Council and Court for this decoration will be combined under one head but both will be separately answerable to the Führer and see to it that no undeserving member will receive the decoration.  There are achievements for which no promotion can be voiced.  The deeds of 200 'Ritterkreuz' bearers do not offset a unique, (single), achievement such as death, (for example).'

It is impossible to write with any degree of finality on Nazi Germany's highest award.  The history of the so called German Order is shrouded in obscurity with even its name not being definitely established.  Hitler most commonly referred to this award as the German Order, Deutsche Orden, but this was to encompass the whole as the order was broken down into the First Class, which was a posthumous grade, the Second Class with and without Swords, and a Third Class Breast Cross.  There is little doubt that the German Order was originally intended to be a party rather than a national award.  It was bestowed by the NSDAP Chancellory at München, which was the so called 'Brown House', and not by the Reich's Chancellory in Berlin which dealt with awards on a national level.  This may perhaps explain the puzzling fact that the German Order received no mention in Dr. Doehle’s book 'Die Auszeichen des Groβdeutschen Reichs', the fourth edition which was published in Berlin in 1943 although it was certainly in existence before this edition of the work appeared.  It would seem that Doehle drew most of his information from the Reich's Chancellory in Berlin, the 'Brown House' in München being uncooperative. However this was rectified in Dr. Doehle’s last edition published in 1945. Here it showed the one class, that as described.

From the monologue it can clearly be seen that Hitler's intention was that there be a Council and Court for this decoration, which were to be joined under one Chancellor but, through the Chancellor they were to be responsible to Hitler for the bestowal of the order.  This fact may account for Doehle's incomplete study as possibly the Court did not come into existence and if it did, it could have been so superior that it was unprepared to divulge the criteria for award of the varying grades of the order. However, one can conclude that Hitler viewed the award as his personal decoration to be bestowed only upon worthy persons who had rendered great service to him, the Party and the German people.

It was the death of Dr. Fritz Todt who was killed in an aeroplane crash leaving Hitler's headquarters in Rastenburg on 8th February 1942 that occasioned the first public announcement of this new order.  During the lifetime of the order Hitler was to allude to it variously as, "The German Order", "The Great German Order" and the "Highest Order of the Party", but most frequently by the first of these.  From the numismatical point of view, by virtue of the fact that the reverse bears his signature the order is often referred to as, "The Hitler Order".  It is also referred to as, "The Order of the Dead", in allusion to the high number of bestowals that were made posthumously. 

In his valedictory address on 11th February 1942, Hitler bestowed upon the late head of the "Organisation Todt" the "German Order" in its highest grade.  Hitler with great ceremony placed the order on Todt's funeral pillow above the Golden Party Badge and the Golden Hitler Youth Honour Badge with Oak Leaves, thus emblematically establishing its position in the Nazi hierarchy of awards.

The "German Order" is added to Dr.Todt's Decorations by the Führer.

Todt's funeral pillow.

This was the first of the ten known awards of the order that were to follow.

Dr. Fritz Todt.
Reichsminister fur Bewaffnung und Munition (State Minister for Armaments)
Died 8th February 1942.  He was killed in an aeroplane crash while leaving Hitler's headquarters in Rastenburg.
Award 11th February 1942
Citation, 'Der Deutschen Orden fur die höchsten Verdienste.',  The German Order for the highest merit.

He was born in Pforzheim, Baden into a prosperous and upper-middle class family. He attended the München College of Technology after matriculating from high school. During the First Word War he served in the Badischen Grenadier Regt. 110 on the Western front. He held the rank of Leutnant der Reserve. He qualified as a Flying Observer in 1915 and then joined the German Air force being posted to Feldfliegerabteilung 70. By 1917 he had been promoted to Chef der Reihenbildtrupps der Armee-Abt. C. He was wounded in aerial combat in 1918. Todt resumed his further studies after the cessation of hostilities going on to work as a civil engineer with Sager & Woerner G. m. b. H. of München. On 5 January 1922 he joined the NSDAP and latter, in July 1933 he became inspector general of roads in Hitler’s cabinet and was responsible for building the vast network of high-speed motorways known as Autobahns. The purpose of these was to enhance military transportation. Todt was appointed Minister of Armaments and Munitions on 17th March 1940 and inspector general for water and energy on 6th August 1941. He also supervised the construction of the Siegfried Wall, a line of defences around western Germany. In 1942, after the successful invasion of France he undertook the challenge of building a chain of submarine bases along the north French coast. He was killed in an airplane crash after leaving a meeting with Hitler at his headquarters at Rastenburg. Todt was given a State funeral held in the Reichskanzlei and interred in the Invaliden Cemetery in Berlin.

Reinhard Heydrich  SS-Obergruppenführer.
The 'Protector of Bohemia and Moravia', (Himmler's second in command).
Died 4th June 1942. Ambushed by Czech patriots on 27th May 1942. His open car in which he rode unprotected and unescorted was machine-gunned on the Kirchmayer Boulevard. Heydrich, injured, pulled his pistol and was about to pursue the Czech soldiers when another member of the group hurled a grenade towards him. The horsehair stuffing and pieces of the metal springs of the car penetrated his body and he died latter in a Prague hospital.
Award 9th June 1942
Citation, 'Die Oberste Stufe des Deutschen Ordens.',  The Highest Class of the German Order.

Heinrich Himmler  Reichsführer-SS, leads the parade of Military morners.

The funeral casket carried on a gun carrage.

The "German Order" is added to Reinhard Heydrich's  Decorations by the Führer.

The funeral pillows, with the addition of the "German Order" ready for ceremonial transportation to the grave.

Heinrich Himmler  Reichsführer-SS salutes Reinhard Heydrich's grave. Of
note is the funeral pillow.

  SS-Obergruppenführer Karl Wolff stands guard behind the funeral pillow.

SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, grave with monument.

Postage Stamp depicting, SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, Death  Mask.

Adolf Hühnlein.
Der Führer des NS-Kraftfahrerkorps, (NSKK), Reichsleiter Head of the NSKK and State Leader.
Died 18th June 1942
Award 22nd June 1942

He had been a regular soldier, serving as a major in the First World War. but with the end of the war his career was also ended. He joined the SA. He took part in the abortive Beer – Hall Putsch on 9th November 1923 after which he rose gradually in the Nazi ranks. With the rank of SA – Gruppenführer, Hühnlein took command in 1934 of the new NSKK, an organisation devoted to para-military transportation that developed many soldiers who subsequently served in Panzer divisions. Hühnlein subjected it to military style discipline. When Rohm created a new territorial structure in July 1932, Hühnlein was promoted to SA-Obergruppenführer, the second highest rank in the SA. Members of the motor SA were automatically also members of the NSKK. However the reverse did not apply. The NSKK took part in the much publicised “token mobilisation” of the Party’s uniformed formations held in the city of Brunswick on 17 – 18 October 1931 when it was able to muster some 5000 vehicles. The event received a great deal of attention in the press and was a considerable propaganda coup for Hitler. The Third Reich began on 30th January 1933 with the appointment of Hitler as Chancellor of Germany.  With the NSDAP now in power the SA and NSKK embarked on a vast expansion program. The NSKK quickly grew to strength of more than 30000 volunteers. Rohm’s confrontation with military leaders due to his ambitions to form the SA into a “people’s army” which was designed to supplant the regular army forces, lead to his assassination following the “Knight of the Long Knives” 0f 30th June 1934.  As a result the Motor SA was amalgamated with its former “junior partner”, the NSKK, which was elevated to the status of an “independent formation of the Party” answerable directly to Hitler. The NSKK quickly swelled to 350000 members.  The Nazis took over all existing motor clubs, which were merged into a single German Automobile Club in September 1933. The Kraftahrstaffeln of the Stahlhelm organisation had been incorporated into the NSKK earlier that same year. In December 1934 Hühnlein was promoted from NSKK – Obergruppenführer to the rank of Korpsfuhrer der NSKK. He was by this time also Chief of the ONS as well as being a member of the board of Directors of the Reichsautobahnen and an honorary army General major. In March 1938 Austria was incorporated into Greater German Reich. This same year marked the growth of the NSKK to over 500000 members. In September being made a “Reichsleiter der NSDAP” rewarded Hühnlein. On 27TH January 1939 a “Führer decree” created the SA – Wehrmannschaften into which all physically fit males on reaching the age of 18 were to be drafted prior to their obligatory military service. The NSKK’s part in this undertaking was to be the training of drivers for the Army’s motorised units at the various NSKK Motor Sports School. He died after a protracted illness on 18th June 1942. He was given a lavish State funeral. The Funeral service for Adolf Hühnlein was held in the Army Museum in München on 21st June 1942. Initially the honour guard consisted of low ranking men, higher ranking leaders took their place when Hitler arrived at the funeral ceremony with the rest of the leaders in attendance. It was on this occasion he was presented with the German Order. The high ranking honour guard also marched with the coffin to the cemetery.

The funeral casket carried on a gun carrage draped in the NSKK Flag.

Hitler salutes the coffin, on the right side of the photo is NSKK Obergruppenführer August Prohl, and behind him are Gauleiter August Eigruber and Gauleiter Hartmann Lauterbacher. HJ Obergebietsführer Kurt Petter is standing at the back of the other row.

The "German Order" is added to Adolf Hühnlein Decorations by the Führer.

The funeral pillows, with the addition of the "German Order" ready for ceremonial transportation to the grave.

Viktor Lutze.
Reichsleiter und SA-Stabschef State Leader and Head of the SA.
Died 3rd May 1943, in automobile accident when on a food foraging expedition outside Berlin.

Award 8th May 1943, on the occasion of his state funeral
Citation, 'Ich glaube, dem höchsten Orden, den die Partei zu vergeben hat, keine wurdigere Bedeutung fur die Zukunft suchern zu können, als daβ ich ihn den ersten Wegbereitern des neues Reiches und damit auch diesem Toten verleihe.'

'I believe this is the highest order that the Party is able to award.  We are not able to seek a more dignified meaning for the future than that which I give to the first forerunner of the new Germany and I herewith award this decoration on his death.'

He was born in Bevergern Westphalia, the son of a peasant craftsman. After a short career in the post office, he joined the German Army in 1912, serving with the 55th Infantry Regiment. During the First World War, He fought in the 369th Infantry Regiment and 15th Reserve Infantry Regiment. He became a company commander and was heavily wounded four times, including loss of his left eye. After the war, Lutze became a merchant and joined the police force.

He joined the NSDAP in 1922. He became an associate of Franz Pfeffer von Salomon, the first leader of the SA. Together, they determined the structure of the organization. He also worked with Albert Leo Schlageter in the resistance/sabotage of the Belgian and French occupation of the Ruhr in 1923. His organization of the Ruhr for the SA became a model for other regions after 1926.  He rose rapidly through the ranks of the SA, becoming an SA – Obergruppenführer in 1933, later that year he became president of the province of Hannover, and Police President of the City. He reported secretly to Hitler on Rőhm’s plans to make the SA a National Socialist army and was used by Hitler to draw up murder lists for the “Knight of the Long Knives”. Lutze accompanied Hitler to München to arrest Rőhm.  After the “Knight of the Long Knives” and the assassination of Rőhm, he became his successor as SA Chief of Staff on 30th June 1934. But it was an SA, which was now to decline rapidly in importance in the Nazi state; never again would it, even remotely, be in a position to challenge the army or Hitler’s leadership of the Nazi Party. After the Anschluss, Lutze traveled to Austria to help reorganize the SA there. The most visible role for the SA after the purge was in assisting the SS in Kristallnacht in November 1938. In February 1939, Lutze reviewed a parade of 20,000 Blackshirts in Rome and then set off for a tour of Italy’s Libyan frontier with Tunisia.

He was an uninteresting and colourless leader, and now was a minor figure in the hierarchy. Lutze maintained his position in the weakened SA until his death. On 1st May 1943 he was driving a car near Potsdam with his entire family, with one account suggesting they were foraging for food. Driving too fast round a bend in the road, he caused an accident that badly injured himself as well as killing his oldest daughter Inge and masifly injuring his younger daughter. Viktor Lutze died during an operation in a hospital in Potsdam at 10:30 the next evening. News reports stated that the accident involved another vehicle, keeping the news of reckless driving from the public. This may have contributed to theories that Lutze was killed just as Röhm had been, or that partisans assassinated him. Hitler ordered Joseph Goebbels to convey his condolences to Viktor’s wife Paula and son Viktor Jr. Goebbels, in his diaries, had already described Lutze as a man of "unlimited stupidity" but at his death decided he was a decent fellow.

The esteem in which Lutze was held is indicated by the fact that Hitler ordered a lavish state funeral for him on 7th May 1943 in the Reich Chancellery. Hitler attended in person, something he rarely did at that stage in the war. Lutze was posthumously awarded the Highest Grade of the German Order by Hitler. Hitler also took this opportunity to order Party, Army, and Government officials, many of whom were in attendance, to curtail speeding, specifically requesting they drive no faster than 50 miles per hour and other reckless behavior.

 The Hurse that carried Lutz's body to his final resting place.

Frau Lutz pays her respects at the internement.

Adolf Wagner.
Gauleiter des Traditionsgaues München – Oberbayern, Staatsminister, SA-Obergruppenführer.

Awarded 17th April 1944.

Wagner died in April 1944, two years after suffering a stroke that had effectively incapacitated him; the increasingly reclusive Führer made a rare public appearance to attend his lavish funeral and bestowed the award on his funeral pillow.

The Offical morners, Reichsleiter Wilhelm Frick. NSKK Korpsführer Erwin Kraus second row between Amann and Hierl. Otto Dietrich in SS uniform next to Kraus. Gauleiter Wachtler then NSFK Korpsführer Alfred Keller and Gauleiter Erich Koch.

Rudolf Schmundt.
General der Infanterie. Hitler's Military Adjutant.

He held this position from 28th January 1938, becoming Chief Adjutant of the Wehrmacht on 10th March 1938 and was made Chief of the Army Personnel Office, succeeding Bodewin Keitel, on 2nd October 1942.

Died 1st October 1944, as a result of wounds sustained at the bomb plot explosion of 20th July 1944.  When news of his adjutant's death reached Hitler, the Führer broke down and cried, "Don't expect me to console you," he told Frau Schmundt, "You must console me for my great loss."

Award 7th October 1944.

Citation, GFM Busch said, 'Der Führer verleiht dem General der Infanterie Rudolf Schmundt die höchste Stufe des Groβdeutschen Ordens mit Schwertern.  So gruäen wir abschiednehmend unseren toten Kameraden in dem Bewuätsein, daβ diese hohe Auszeichnung durch den Führer und Obersten Befehlshaber der Wehrmacht, Adolf Hitler, höchste Anerkennung seines Wirkens und seiner Arbeit fur Führer und Reich ist."

'The Führer awards to the Infantry General Rudolf Schmundt the highest order of the Great (Grand) German Order with Swords.  So we take farewell of our dead comrade in the knowledge that this decoration is awarded as the highest recognition of his work and effect for the Führer and the German High Command.'

Hitler comforts the critically wounded Rudolf Schmundt

Josef Bürkel (Bürckel)
Gau Saarpfalz which was later renamed Gau Westmark, from 1935-1944.  He was the first Gauleiter of Vienna from 1939-1940.  He held these two posts simultaneously.
Died?  He is reported as having committed suicide in November 1944.  However another report gives the date as 28th September 1944 with the reason for committing suicide being that he feared the consequences of a premature flight from the city of Metz. The Citation also seems to indicate that he was dead when it was presented.
Award 3rd October 1944
Citation, 'Als besondere Anerkennung dieses vorbildlichen nationalsozialistischen Lebens und als dauernde Mahnung und Erinnerung fur kommende Geschlechter verleiht der Führer Dir, Josef Bürkel, die höchste Stufe des Deutschen Ordens mit Schwertern'.

'As special recognition of this exemplary National Socialist life and as a lasting reminder and recognition for the future young people, the Führer awards to you, Josef Burkel, the highest decoration of the German Order with Swords.'

Reason - At the time of the award the battle of Metz, which was situated in his Gau region, was at its height.  Gauleiters held military responsibility for their Gau.

Josef Bürckel's state funeral was held in Saarbrücken on 4th October 1944. Alfred Rosenberg was there representing Hitler and gave the eulogy. Also in attendance: Ley, Fiehler, von Schirach, Gauleiters Murr, Sprenger, Sauckel, Wahl, Scheel, Simon and Florian, and Stabschef Schepmann.

Rosenberg's eulogy, and a detailed description of the funeral, appeared on the front page of the VB for 5th October 1944.

Konstantin Hierl.
Reichsminister, Reichsarbeitsführer und Reichsleiter,Minister of Labour and Head of the RAD.
Award 24th February 1945.
Citation, 'Der Führer hat dem Reichsarbeitsführer, Reichsleiter und Reichsminister Konstantin Hierl in Wurdigung seiner Verdienste um Partei und Reich das Goldene Kreuz des Deutschen Ordens mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern verliehen.  Im Kreise der versammelten Parteiführerschaft an seinem 70. Geburtstag als erstem lebenden Deutschen diese höchste Auszeichnung.'

'The Führer has to the Reichsarbeitsführer, Reichsleiter and Reichsminister Konstantin Hierl in respect of his duties for the Party and the Reich awarded the Golden Cross of the German Order with Oak Leaves and Swords.  In the circle of the collective Party leadership on his 70th birthday as first living recipient of this highest decoration.'

The award document above was presenteted to Konstantin Hierl on 24th February 1945 together with the Golden cross of the German Order with Oakleaves and Swords. The Document is fired gold on parchment and the white leather cover is bordered in gold with a metal gold eagle.

He was born into a Catholic family in the Upper Pfalz village of Parsberg, the son of a senior civil service lawyer.  He spent his youth in Neumarkt, a small village nestled along the road between Nuremberg and Regensberg in the Bavarian Ostmark.  His family had a long history of military and public service, which influenced him in his decision to pursue a military career. His grandfather had joined the Bavarian army at the age of fourteen as a drummer boy, while his father was a Royal Bavarian District Court Judge who had also seen military service. After completing secondary school in Regensburg he enlisted as a Private in the 11th Royal Bavarian Infantry Regiment von der Tamm on 14th July 1893.  He was quickly promoted to the rank of Unteroffizer. In January 1894 he became an officer candidate.  Fourteen months later he was commissioned as a Leutnant.  At the age of 24 he was among the best and brightest in his class at the Kriegsakademie in München, where he completed his studies in 1902 with honours. Of the 16 students in his class at the Kriegakademie only he and two others were considered suitable for positions on the General Staff.  On 1st October 1903 he was ordered to the Central Office of the Bavarian General Staff in München, and four weeks later he was promoted to Oberleutnant. On 10th October 1907 Hierl reported for duty with the Prussian General Staff in Berlin.  He was promoted to the rank of Hauptmann in 1909, and in October of that year returned to the Bavarian General Staff on assignment.  He was quickly sent to the field, serving two years as a company commander in the 17th Infantry Regiment.  He returned to the Kriegsakademie in 1911, this time as a lecturer on military history.  He became well known in military circles as the author of a number of monographs.  On 25th August 1913 he was promoted to the rank of Major, and transferred to Army High Command 6 Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria as a general Staff officer.  With the outbreak of war in August 1914, Hierl assumed the role of liaison officer between the Army High Command and the individual corps.  He experienced the victorious advance of the German Army in France in the early months, and the Bavarian Corp’s successes in Lorraine.  In March 1915 he joined the 10th Bavarian Infantry Division as a General Staff officer, and became Operations Officer with the 1st Bavarian Reserve Corps ON 3RD march 1917.  On 11th July 1918 he was assigned as General Staff officer to the 19th Army, holding this position until the end of the war. He was summoned to the Reichswehrministerium in Berlin where his wartime experiences and knowledge of military history were needed to help the new post-war army. Military defeat and the economic and political chaos that followed provided fertile ground for revolution throughout Germany in the immediate post-war years. In April 1919 a Communist Revolutionary Committee seized control in München, and declared a Soviet Republic.  Hierl immediately left Berlin for his native Bavaria and was soon commanding Detachment Hierl, which was part of the larger Freiwilligen Abteilung Probstmayr. This being one of the many Freikorps units being formed to combat the communist insurrection.  After a successful campaign, which freed the city, Detachment Hierl went on to participate in many similar actions throughout Bavaria.  Only after a series of bloody clashes were the communists ejected.  While he and Hitler had never met, Hitler sent him a congratulatory letter for an article that he wrote for a leading München newspaper.  Hierl was promoted in 1922 to the rank of Oberst, and once again assumed teaching responsibilities at the Reichswehrministerium in Berlin. By now he had achieved a degree of celebrity as the author of a three volume official history of the Great War. However his involvement in the political struggle against the communists in Bavaria had awakened an interest in social issues and unlike many of his contemporaries he realized that Germany had to move beyond the class-based social structure and traditions of the past in order to survive in the future.  As an outspoken advocate of social reform, he found himself at odds with his superior, Reichwehr Chief General von Seekt and the Reichswehr high command.  Hierl retired on 30th September 1924, but before doing so, his last act was to draft a memorandum advocating the establishment of a labour service for fit males between the ages of 17 and 35. It was not acted upon.  Having remained close to Ludendorff during this period, Hiel joined the General when he founded the Tannenberg Bund in 1925. He became its organisational leader for the south Germany.  He left the Tannenberg Bund in 1927 after realising this was not the vehicle for implementing his idea of an Arbeitsdienst. At the urging of his friend Gregor Strasser, he joined Hitler and his National Socialist Worker’s Party on 20 April 1929.  Hitler well aware of Hierl’s exceptional organisational skills and extensive military experience put him in charge of the Party’s Organizationsabteilung II with an office in the Brown House in München. Among the tasks of Hierl’s department was the development of a practical compulsory Arbeitsdienst plan.  Within a year Hierl convinced Hitler of the importance of his plan for Germany and the growing NSDAP.  On 14th September 1930 Hierl was elected to the Reichstag as a National Socialist Deputy.  Here he pushed for the formalisation of his plan for a national labour service.  In the summer of 1943 the Arbeitsdienst was removed from the Interior Ministry and granted the status of an indepent agency.  Hierl became a Reichsminister.  A year later with Hitler’s approval he moved his residence to Wiedhoen in Austria.  His intention was to retire on his 70th birthday.  However he remained in contact with the RAD headquarters in Berlin. On 8th May 1945 he was taken prisoner subjected to numerous interrogations but the Nuremberg Tribunal handed down no indictments against him or the RAD.  However in 1949 Germany indicted him on the basis of his titles as Reichsminister and Reichsleiter.  At the age of 75 he was found guilty and sentenced to five years in a labour camp, but was found to be physically unfit to serve the sentence.

Karl Hanke.
Gauleiter. Gauleiter of Lower Silesia from 1940-1945.
Award 8th April 1945.
Citation, 'In dankbarer Wurdigung Ihrer groβen Verdienste im Kampf um die Zukunft unseres Volkes verleihe ich Ihnen das Goldene Kreuz des Deutschen Ordens, Adolf Hitler'.

'In thankful respect of your great services in the struggle for the future of our people I award to you the Golden Cross of the German Order, Adolf Hitler'.

Gauleiter of Lower Silesia from 1940 until 1945. Hanke had a long and colourful career in the Nazi Party. His first key post was as Joseph Goebbel’s personal adjutant in the propaganda ministry. While Dr Goebbels was involved with the Czech film star, Lida Baarova, his youthful adjutant was giving much attention to the propaganda minister’s wife. Their affair was broken off at the Fuhrer’s insistence, as also was that of Dr Goebbl and Miss Baarova. Hanke by now a state secretary in the propaganda ministry entered the army. In the French campaign of 1940, he was attached to Erwin Rommel’s staff. Although not a professional soldier, Hanke fought courageously. Rommel recommended him for the Knight’s Cross or the Iron cross but the recommendation was later withdrawn, by Rommel, because of some unpleasant remarks made by Hanke. At the end of 1940 Hanke was released from military service. Still not in favour in Berlin, he was appointed Gauleiter of Niederschlesien, Lower Silesia. In Hitler’s last testament, Hanke was named as Himmler’s successor as Reichsfuhrer- SS. Shortly before the fall of Breslau, Hanke abandoned his post and flew off in one of the few helicopters then operational. This cowardly act did not help him, for he was beaten to death by Czechs in the early summer of 1945.

Karl Holz
Gauleiter. Acting Gauleiter of Franconia from 1942-1945.
Award 16th April 1945.
Died 20th April 1945.  He was killed in the fighting for the city of Nurnberg while entrenched in the Police Headquarters building.
Citation, Telegram received 16th April 1945, 'Ich danke Ihnen fur Ihr vorbildliches Verhalten.  Nicht nur die Volksgenossen Ihres Gaues, denen Sie alle vertraut sind, richten Sie dadurch auf, sondern auch viele Millionen anderer Deutscher.  Es beginnt jetzt jener Kampf des Famatismus, der an unser eigenes Ringen um die Macht erinnert.  Wir groβ auch immer im Augenblick die ubermacht unserer Feinde sein mag, am Ende wird sie - genau wie einst - trotzdem zerbrechen.  Ich wurdige Ihr heldenhaftes Wirken in herzlicher Dankbarkeit durch die Verleihung des Goldenen Kreuzes des Deutschen Ordens.  Adolf Hitler'.

'I thank you for your exemplary behaviour.  Not only the people of your District with whom you are already well known, to point towards through you, also to many millions of other Germans.  It begins now about the Fight of the Fantasy, which in our ring remind us of the power.  However big at the moment the overwhelming power of our enemies may be, at the end they will - exactly as before - nevertheless break up.  I honour your heroic acts in heartfelt gratitude by the award of the Golden Cross of the German Order.  Adolf Hitler.'

Arthur Axmann
Reichsjungendfuhrer. Reich Youth Leader from August 1940-1945.
Award 28th April 1945.
Citation, 'Das Goldene Kreuz des Deutschen Ordens'.
According to Angolia this is to be found in the Völkischer Beobachter of 29th April 1945.  It refers to the award as the Golden Cross of the German Order.  The article refers to Axmann as, 'The third living German after Gauleiters Hanke and Holz to receive this award.  He was simultaneously awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class.'  However in a letter of 12th December 1954 from Nicolaus von Belo, Hitler's Luftwaffe Adjutant, to Dr. Klietmann, von Belo stated that Axmann was seen in Hitler's bunker between 25th and 29th April 1945 with the German Order 2nd Class, round his neck. 

The reason for the discrepancy in the date is unknown but can be put down to either a slip in the memory of  Nicolaus von Belo or possibly Axmann had been notified earlier than the official award date as intimated by Angolia.

Reason - Arthur Axmann was Head of the Hitler Youth, who had many thousands of their members fighting in the defence of Berlin.  He was the nominal commander of Panzerbrigade Hitlerjugend and other Deutscher Volkssturm units, The German People's Militia, and these were also involved in the defensive fighting for Berlin.  Hitler personally decorated many young Hitler Youth members, the youngest recipient being the twelve years old Alfred Zeck of Goldenau, who rendered first aid to twelve wounded German soldiers pinned down by enemy fire in his home town in March 1945.

There are two further awards that have been mooted but no sound case has been made for their bestowal.  In the case of Himmler's, I am confident that he definitely was considered for the award and that it was at the stage of bestowal that events overtook eventualities and Himmler fell from grace.  He was to actively encourage the opening of separate peace negotiations, although this was undertaken in the most careful and clandestine manner.  Dönitz, on the other hand, could possibly have been awarded the Order as part and parcel of Hitler's last Will and Testament. I have laid out the circumstances of the two cases for the reader's interest, as follows.

Heinrich Himmler

In May 1944 Hitler told Speer that he intended to confer the German Order on Himmler for some very special services.  The award was never made for reasons that Speer was never able to discover.  This revelation is to be found in, "Inside the Third Reich", the memoirs of Albert Speer.

One bizarre Himmlerian scheme to help the war effort stands out at this time and may be the 'Special Services' referred to be Hitler.  Eichman, Himmler's Jewish transportation expert, offered Yoel Brand in May 1944, the lives of 700,000 Hungarian Jews in exchange for 10,000 lorries which the Allies were to deliver to Salonika.  This was the first form of barter to be suggested and came to nothing.  The reasons for the non compliance of the wish by the Allies is somewhat veiled in intrigue.  It was to be followed by other proposals equally appalling, such as Eichman's subsequent offer on behalf of Himmler to receive 20,000,000 Swiss Francs for the lives and liberties of 30,000 Jews.  This last proposal led to the transfer of 1,684 Rumanian Jews who reached Switzerland in August and December 1944, for all of whom, Himmler received through the Swiss president Jean-Marie Musi, 5,000,000 Swiss Francs subscribed through international Jewish charity.  These developments were assisted by the proposals Himmler received from a Madam Immfeld, to settle liberated Jews in the south of France.  The negotiations for the transfer of the money were most complicated and were hindered by the action of the US State Department.  Information about this pitiful sale was eventually to reach the ears of Hitler.  It is possible that it was this failure of Himmler's plans to secure lorries and money which were ostensibly to be used against the Soviet Union, which hopefully from Himmler's point of view would help secure an independent SS state in the east and possibly a cessation of the war in the west for Hitler, that led Hitler to reconsider his original thought of bestowing Himmler with the German Order.

Karl Dönitz
Grand Admiral.
Awarded May 1945?

In a personal interview between Grand Admiral Dönitz and Ltc. (Retd) John R. Angolia, Dönitz stated that he was also rendered the award and addressed it as the Chancellery German Order, Kanzlei Deutsche Orden.  In correspondence with myself in 1973 he evaded the question of being awarded this order.  However, it is interesting to note that Dönitz addresses the order as the Chancellery German Order, thus indicating the nature of it as expressed by Hitler in his monologue.

In conclusion it is possible therefore to ascertain the grades of the awards and the types that each recipient was awarded.  The posthumous bestowals were, Dr. Fritz Todt, Reinhard Heydrich, Adolf Huhnlein, Victor Lutze, Adolf Wagner, Rudolf Schmundt and Josef Bürkel.  It seems that the latter, from his supposed suicide on 28th September 1944 and the translation of his citation where it relates to his life in respect to National Socialism, was presumed to have died on that date.  This would then fit in with the text of the other citations.  The German Order - 2nd Class, with Oak Leaves and Swords was awarded to Konstantin Hierl and the citation notes that he was the first recipient and therefore as Karl Hanke, Karl Holz and Arthur Axmann were awarded the German Order, it is fair to assume that Hierl was the sole recipient of the Oak Leaves and Swords and the other three the German Order - 2nd Class.

Fakes of the German Order.

The Souval copy of the German Order. To note are the Eagles in the quaderants, these are refered to as the Chicken head type. There are many other diferences that can be observed.

The main diference apart from the chicken headed eagles id the centeral plate or button that has the signature of Hitler. This is a seperate attachment. This precludes th use of the original dies.

 The reverse of the upper cross suspension also shows many differences to the original. Together with this is the silver content mark .935.

A Second Fake

 This is a modern copy that is of very pore quality. I have shown it to give balance to the Souval copy.

The Grand Cross Star of the German Order. This is a total fantersy piece invented by the firm of Souval. The important point is that the firm produced new dies for this. This belies the thoughts that the Firm had some conection with the original manufacturers.

The reverse of the fantersy piece. This shows the typical construction employed by the Souval firm.

The case Grand Cross of the German Order.

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