Citations – and why they matter

Continuing our look at Germany’s iconic medal, today we have an example of the document explaining why one particular soldier on the Western Front was awarded the Iron Cross, second class.

A citation is a formal, official acknowledgment of a specific act of bravery, distinguished service, or exemplary performance by an individual or a unit. It’s provided in writing and often accompanies a medal or award. The citation gives details about the action or behavior that warranted the recognition. It serves as an enduring record of a person’s or unit’s exceptional service or valor in the face of danger or adversity.

In this particular instance, this one was awarded to musketeer  Heinrich Anhaus of the 4th company  Infantry Regiment 131. As was often the case, it was bestowed on him in the field on 5 October 1917 for his  action on 31 August 1917. Whenever these do turn up, they tend to be quite worn because the soldier would often fold them up and keep them in a pocket. And it’s always worth checking if you have  the commanding officers signature for good measure!

Iron Cross: Part Two

Continuing our look at the single most iconic German medal, today we have an Iron Cross Second Class on the left with the rarer ‘next of kin’ or ‘widow’s ribbon’. This ribbon would have been presented to a family member of a deceased soldier, with its distinction being only in the ribbon itself.

Additionally, there is the Iron Cross First Class, which is a ‘pin back’ and a domed type. This is a privately purchased item that fits snugly to the pocket when worn. This particular example is marked with ‘800’ on the pin, signifying the standard German silver mark.

The final photograph displays the Iron Cross Second Class with both the regular and widow’s ribbons, alongside the full-sized and miniature versions of the Iron Cross. Such miniatures are rare since Germans typically wear them in the form of stickpins or on chains.

Collectors commonly refer to the Iron Cross as either ‘EK’ or ‘EK2’. It should also be noted that, just as with coins, medals should neither be cleaned nor stored long-term in plastic packets.

The Iron Cross: A First Class Clarification

The first of a two part post exploring this iconic German medal.

In this photo the iron cross with the ribbon is a second class and the ribbon only was worn on the uniform. The other is a first class with pin back and would have been worn on the pocket. Both have an iron centre with silver frame and, ideally, all medals should have coin-like definition.

The value of the Iron Cross is largely determined by the maker’s mark, though not all of them have this mark. For the 2nd class, the mark is typically stamped on the ring, while for the first class, it’s either on the back or the pin. Sometimes, you might only find the “800” mark, which represents German silver. During the First World War, letters were used for maker marks. Interestingly, even during the Third Reich, Iron Crosses from the First World War were still produced, and these typically have a number as the maker’s mark.

Vive La Résistance!

Vive indeed! Today we have some original FFI badges awarded for services rendered before June 6, 1944. Once France was liberated, localized groups were established. Individuals who provided evidence of their anti-Nazi or resistance activities could earn the wing/badge. The award was first given to prominent resistance figures to elevate its prestige.

Genuine badges were crafted by the renowned French jeweler, ARTHUS BERTRAND. All authentic badges bear raised markings “A BERTRAND” and “EDIT”, and they are sequentially numbered with small numerals. The “EDIT” mark signifies it was a unique batch of badges, hence “édition”. These badges were die-struck, lugs were then attached, followed by silver plating. The inscriptions were hand-painted in blue, white, and red.

Regrettably, unless a badge is accompanied by its original award receipt, there’s no way to ascertain its original owner or verify if it was ever bestowed. This is because boxes of badges were distributed across different regions. These weren’t issued in consecutive order, and unallocated badges were eventually sold.

Originally, they were affixed with an iron cotter pin. While secure, these pins are challenging to detach and can damage clothing.

If you’re interested in this period, what follows is some useful context for the situation at the time:

The French Resistance was a critical force in opposing German occupation during WWII. But it wasn’t the only one. British and American special forces, like the SAS, OSS, and the SOE, also played vital roles in France. Specifically, the SOE had 93 small teams in France, often comprising an American, a British, and a French operative. Their mission was to support and coordinate with the local Resistance groups.

One notable group was the Corps de Franc de la Montagne Noire (CFMN). They operated independently, getting orders from London. In 1943, under London’s instructions, the CFMN began to amass weapons and manpower in the Montagne Noire region. Henri Sevenet, an SOE agent, collaborated with Roger Mompezat to bolster these efforts. With their guidance, this unit became a potent force, boasting members from 21 different nationalities.

However, it’s essential to distinguish between various resistance fighters. The famed Marquis were guerrilla fighters who initially avoided forced labor for the German war effort. Over time, they transformed into more organized anti-German groups, supporting the Allies with their local knowledge.

Being in the Resistance was a dangerous commitment. Wearing recognizable badges was risky, as the Gestapo and French secret police were highly effective in tracking down and arresting members. Nevertheless, after the D-Day landings in June 1944, sabotage to the German railway system became one of the most successful resistance operations.

The Milice, a pro-German French militia, was particularly detested by the Resistance. They were targeted and eliminated, sometimes with the aid of British agents.

General De Gaul had a challenge on his hands. While many resistance groups were aiding the anti-German cause, not all were under his control. Some were led by the British, Americans, or even non-traditional groups like communists and foreign nationals.

As the tide of war turned in the Allies’ favor, the resistance efforts started to shift. The French Forces of the Interior (FFI) unified many resistance groups under one banner. But political challenges persisted. After the Germans were driven out, General De Gaul integrated many FFI soldiers into the regular French Army.

In the aftermath, the hunt for collaborators intensified. Many were tried and executed for their roles in supporting the German occupiers. As the war moved on and the Allies gained ground, badges, medals, and insignia became a source of pride for the resistance fighters and the French population.