military decoration in the Kingdom of Prussia, and later in the German Empire (1870–1918) and Nazi Germany
The Iron Cross (German: Eisernes Kreuz , abbreviated EK) is a former military decoration in the Kingdom of Prussia, and later in the German Empire (1871–1918) and Nazi Germany (1933–1945). It was established by King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia on 17 March 1813 during the Napoleonic Wars (EK 1813). The award was backdated to the birthday (10 March) of his late wife Queen Louise. Louise was the first person to receive this decoration (posthumously). The recommissioned Iron Cross was also awarded during the Franco-Prussian War (EK 1870), World War I (EK 1914), and World War II (EK 1939). The Iron Cross awarded during World War II has a swastika in the center. The Iron Cross was normally a military decoration only, though there were instances of it being awarded to civilians for performing military functions. Two such examples were Hanna Reitsch, who received the Iron Cross 2nd Class and Iron Cross 1st Class, and Melitta Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg, who received the Iron Cross 2nd Class. Both were civilian test pilots during World War II.
The design of the cross symbol was black with a white or silver outline, was ultimately derived from the cross pattée of the Teutonic Order, used by knights on occasions from the 13th century.The Prussian Army black cross pattée was also used as the symbol of the succeeding German Army from 1871 to March/April 1918, when it was replaced by the Balkenkreuz. In 1956, it was re-introduced as the symbol of the Bundeswehr, the modern German armed forces.
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