by Sebastián Bianchi

The War Merit Cross 2nd Class was the award that bore the main burden of replacing the non-combatant ribbon of the Iron Cross. It is of interest that because it was initially liberally presented damaging its prestige, the War Merit Medal was introduced in 1941.

Technical Information

The War Merit Cross 2nd Class was bronze plated Maltese cross which measured 49mm.  It was constructed from a wide range of materials, from zinc with a bronzed wash to a few very rare bronze pieces.  As the war progressed, the quality of the materials decreased, and as a result late war crosses lose their bronze wash with the passing of time, yielding a gray appearance.

The arms of the cross on both sides had a flat edge with a pebbled center.  The obverse center disk featured a mobile swastika surrounded by an oak leaf wreath while on the reverse center the oak leaves surrounded the year 1939.  An eyelet was soldered to the upper arm of the cross through which a ribbon loop, which had the manufacturers mark, went through.  The cross was presented with a 6" ribbon piece of ribbon with bands of red-white-black-white-red (the colors of the Iron Cross reversed).  In the case of the combatant grade a pair of military swords, finished on both sides, were placed between the arms of the cross.

War Merit Cross 2nd Class without swords obverse and reverse

Sebastián Bianchi Collection


War Merit Cross 2nd Class with swords obverse and reverse

Sebastián Bianchi Collection


Presentation, Wear and Documents

On formal occasions or military parades the Cross was worn suspended from the ribbon or as part of a group. For active duty, only the ribbon was worn either through the second buttonhole on the uniform tunic or in a ribbon bar.  If worn on the buttonhole, it would go behind the ribbon for the Iron Cross 2nd Class but technically before the Eastern Winter Campaign Medal, though the latter is often seen outranking the War Merit Cross due to its high prestige among combat troops.

When presented the Cross came in a blue, red or brown paper envelope with the name of the award written in gothic script.  The document presented was plain, and as with other awards no details were given of the situation which earned the recipient the Cross.

War Merit Cross 2nd Class with Swords and presentation envelope

Sebastián Bianchi Collection



Luftwaffe men receive the War Merit Cross 2nd Class

Courtesy Perry Floyd


Award Criteria and Statistics

The War Merit Cross 2nd Class without swords was presented to those whose actions were deemed to be in the furtherance of the war effort but not directly involved in military operations.  This could mean civilians such as teachers and industrialists, or Military personnel on occupation duty or POW camp guards.  The War Merit Cross 2nd Class with Swords was presented to Military Personnel for bravery not necessarily in the face of the enemy.  In reality there was a gray area in which individuals received the Cross with Swords when perhaps the non-combatant grade would have been appropriate, and other receiving the Iron Cross when the War Merit Cross with Swords would have fit better.  The number of awards presented follows;

War Merit Cross with Swords 6,134,950
War Merit Cross without Swords 1,591,5673


SS-Standartenfuehrer Norbert Scharf (Recipient)

Norbert Scharf was born on 7 January 1901. He held SS-Nr. 2473, NSDAP-Nr. 67694 (Gold Party Badge holder) and was promoted SS-Standartenfuehrer on 1 July 1937.  By 1 December 1938 he was shown as a member of SS-Stammabteilung 5. The 39th SS Standarte was formed in Kolberg in June 1933 but moved to Kuslin in July 1934.  Also called "Ostpommern".

39th SS Standarte Unit Commanders:
Hauptmann d.R Willy Krieger
SS-Staf. Willy Fluggel
SS-Stubaf. Elimar Schulze
SS-Ostubaf. Otto Kumm
SS-Obf. Berthold Maack
SS-Staf. Hans Thumser
SS-Staf. Norbert Scharfe
15/12-1930 - 7/11-1932
7/11-1932 - 7/5-1934
7/5-1934 - 1/10-1934
1/10-1934 - 31/10-1934
4/12-1934 - 1/11-1935
1/11-1935 - 1/1-1939
1/1-1939 - Mai 1945

Prior to the war, Norbert Scharf was also Fuhrer for the 47 SS-Standarte that was based in Gera between 7/5-1934 and 30/10-1935.   Between 10/1-1935 - January 1936 he acted as Stabsfuhrer in SS-Abschnitt XI (Frankfurt/Main). Between 12/31-36 and 10/20-38 he was Fuhrer for SS-Standarte 5 based in Trier.   His last field post was at Triest no. 01471 Hoh. SS-u. Pol.Fuhrer die Adriat until Jan 1945.  He was also listed as HStuf d.R Prinz Eugen on November 1944.   Though his fate is unknown, and it is believed that he was involved in the final defense of Berlin.


SS-Standartenfuehrer Norbert Scharf

Norbert's awards are as follows:

  1. War Merit Cross 2nd Class without swords.
  2. The Honor Sword of the Reichsfuhrer-SS.
  3. The Totenkopf ring der SS.
  4. The SA Sportsbadge.
  5. Reichssportabzeichen in Silver.
  6. Golden NSDAP-badge.


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