Imagine a typical German house, in the 1960's. There is can sitting amongst the clutter on top of grandma and grandpa's refrigerator. It is unassuming, red and rectangular, with the scratches and dings that years of household living bought on it. Most would never know as they walked in and out of the kitchen skirting running young ones that the contents the humble can protected were a few decorations earned in the field of battle, amongst them a now tired and tarnished silver and black cross that once brightly glittered from the chest of a proud young Opa. The medals remained there, out of view and all but forgotten, until the days after the last breath left the veteran. He had not forgotten, but he also would not talk. The tin can, after so many years, yields the Iron Cross like a genie; the content of the red can the only the evidence of the war story of this man. If they could talk they would tell of a time when the triggers was squeezed in defense of an unattainable cause, of times that we now picture in black and white but that were all too colored then.
This small corner of the site is dedicated to telling stories of Iron Cross recipients. An attempt to bring to life the decoration we study in such detail, and a reminder that we have now are pieces of history that was written by both notorious and ordinary men.
Julius Karl August (1911 - 1942)
Those who earned the lower classes of the Iron Cross were the backbone of successes of the Wehrmacht. Their actions and achievements provide examples that help explain why Germany was able to bark the world at bay for nearly five years. Long after the great Blitzkrieg victory parades of the early campaigns the ranks of German soldiers continued to fight with frightening efficiency. Limited by their resources, they often obtained the unattainable and held on to ground against all odds. It is not only a wonder what they achieved in victory, but also what they achieved in defeat. Some of the most tenacious defenses were displayed when attempting to save trapped or encircled comrades, and loyalty to each other keep the Wehrmacht fighting until the end even when the outcome of the war was a forgone conclusion. Their wholesale courage that became recognized with the Iron Cross.
The European fight against Bolshevism included many nations. Alongside German men were Dutch, Spanish, Italians and Croatian volunteers who were eager to embark on the journey East. These men fought who alongside their allies did so with distinction, and many were honored with the Iron Cross. See the Croatian Recipients of German Decorations page (located in the Axis Allies section) for more information on that topic.
|Joop Cuypers was born in Amsterdam on 1 August 1920. Together with his brother Max, he was one of the first to enlist in the Waffen-SS Standarte "Nordwest", which mainly consisted of Flemish and Dutch volunteers.... more|
|Wilhelm Haffner; Wilhelm was born in Jagstfeld Germany on December 29, 1906 and entered the military at the age of 35 on March 6, 1942. Even at his age he was listed as “fit for combat”, and was assigned to 1./Pi.Ers.Btl. 35. Wilhelm remained here until May 11, 1942.... more|
|Peter Himbert - he details of this drivers life have been lost with time, what we have left are his award documents and his wide grin immortalized in pictures....more|
|Dr. Kurt Oelsner was a surgeon by training. Drafted in November 1939 he became part of the Infanteriedivision 299, formed in Wehrbereich IX in Kassel. Attached to the Stab of the Pionierbataillon 299 he participated in...more|
|As a young artillery Leutnant Sigfried Knappe participated in the invasion of France as part of Army Group Kleist. He was decorated for actions that took place ...more|
|Hanna Reitsch was born the daughter of an ophthalmologist and was in training to become a medical doctor in 1932 when she left that field to pursue a career as a test pilot. In the 1930s she became fairly famous....more|
|Alfred Zeck - In the last desperate days of the Third Reich, there were many decorations and promotions. The youngest recipient of the Iron Cross, Alfred was just twelve when he....more|
More to come soon
The picture above is an official press photo. The back of it reads - "The German red sisters Geolinde Münch and sister Hanni Weber were distinguished for outstanding application with the Iron Cross II. Atlantic, 21.7.1944/Re.E.M"
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