Original German / Prussian parade mounted medal group: Merit Cross for War Aid (Verdienstkreuz für Kriegshilfe) & Kyffhauser League 1914-1918 War Veterans Commemorative Medal (Kyffhäuserbund Kriegsdenkmedaille 1914-18) - WW1, IN VERY NICE CONDITION, ON GENUINE PARADE MOUNTED RIBBONS WITH PERFECTLY WORKING PIN DEVICE, A REALLY GOOD EXAMPLE
HISTORY OF THE AWARDS:
Merit Cross for War Aid (Verdienstkreuz für Kriegshilfe) was instituted on December 05, 1916 by the German emperor Wilhelm II as a decoration for military personnel and civilians regardless of their rank, social status and gender for recognition of outstanding patriotic war aid service for at least two years. Central Powers nationals were also eligible for award according to the statute of the Cross. Brief history behind an institution of Verdienstkreuz für Kriegshilfe is as follows. Prior to December 1916 Prussian subjects who distinguished themselves on a civil service could have been awarded one of the following awards: Order of the Crown (Kronenorden), 3rd and 4th Classes; Gold or Silver Merits Cross (Verdienstkreuz in Gold / Silber); General Honour Award Cross (Kreuz des Allgemeinen Ehrenzeichens); General Honour Award (Allgemeines Ehrenzeichen). Yet value of those orders could have been depreciated in the event of mass decorations of selfless home front workers due to the protracted course of war. Incidentally the same reason restrained German authorities from mass issuance of Iron Cross, 2nd Class on non-combatants ribbon to that category of Prussian subjects. That framework led Prussian state ministry (Preußisches Staatsministerium) being a supreme governmental body of that time to advice Wilhelm II to extend statute of the Silver Merits Cross (Verdienstkreuz in Silber) and confer it on distinguished home front workers. Initial positive account of the Emperor had been shortly changed as he tried to avoid undesirable burden to the state treasury in case of mass production of a silver decoration in difficult times of war. Thus a decision was made in favour of a comparatively cheap award made of zinc alloy, i.e. Kriegsmetall. Design of a new decoration was based on a Silver Merits Cross with an exception of central medallion on reverse (both sides of the latter were identical) and ribbon colour. An order was placed with the Nürnberg-based company Lauer as soon as Wilhelm II approved floating sketch. Specimen crosses were submitted for imperial approval on December 26, 1915 and first 200 pieces were then ordered for immediate production and further distribution among distinguished Prussians. A special emphasis was made on luxury casing (brown leather boxes) for half of that lot reserved for dignitaries. The very first recipients of Verdienstkreuz für Kriegshilfe were Wilhelm II himself and Generalfeldmarschall Paul von Hindenburg. Altogether 500,000 crosses and 167,643 m of ribbon worth 857,000 Marks were ordered. Verdienstkreuz für Kriegshilfe was generally awarded to non-combatants (signal, train and other logistics units personnel), medics and orderlies. As per civilians Merit Cross for War Aid was issued mainly to various authorities, officials, personnel of military registration and enlistment offices, etc. In compliance with its statute a Cross could have been awarded alongside with Iron Cross and other war decorations. Verdienstkreuz für Kriegshilfe remained in the family of a recipient after his demise and was not to be surrendered. Verdienstkreuz für Kriegshilfe had a shape of equilateral eight-pointed cross 41,5x41,5 mm with raised edges and a superimposed central circular medallion. An obverse had an inscription in three rows “For Auxiliary Service in War” (“Für Kriegs Hilfsdienst”) in capital letters and two oak leaves tied by a ribbon at the bottom. A reverse had interwined letters “WR” standing for “Wilhelmus Rex” surmounted by the Prussian crown. Nürnberg-based company Lauer (Firma Lauer) was a major official manufacturer of a decoration. As per Institution Order signed by Wilhelm II on December 05, 1916 Verdienstkreuz für Kriegshilfe was made of zinc alloy (“Kriegsmetall”) and directly of zinc. Pieces for private purchase were produced by other manufacturers of silver, aluminum and Buntmetall, a yellow colour alloy of nonferrous metals. Miniatures of Verdienstkreuz für Kriegshilfe were manufactured as well. Merit Cross for War Aid was worn suspended from a silk white ribbon with six vertical thin black stripes and two red at its edges. Like Prussian Iron Cross 2nd Class and several other war decorations it could be worn in the traditional style, i.e. passed through the second buttonhole of a tunic. Women recipients wore an award on a bow. Ribbons were produced by a Berlin-based company Knoblauch. Verdienstkreuz für Kriegshilfe was awarded in 1916-1924, even after the end of the Great War. The remaining 44,250 pieces together with 15,511 m of ribbon were sold to Berlin-based company “Neue Berliner Messingwerke” in 1924.
Kyffhauser 1914-1918 War Veterans Commemorative Medal (Kyffhäuserbund Kriegsdenkmedaille 1914-18) - Oval gilt bronze medal with eyelet for ribbon suspension; the face with a tattered standard, lightning bolts below, dated ‘1914 1918’ to the left above a sprig of laurel, inscribed above ‘Blank die Wehr, Rein die Her’ (Shining Arms, Pure Honour), signed ‘HOSAEUS’ at the base, all within a stylised laurel border; the reverse inscribed ‘Aufrecht u stoß gehen wir aus dem Kampfe den wir über vier Jahre gegen eine Welt von Feinden bestanden, Hindenburg’ (Upright and battered we came through four years of struggle withstanding a world of enemies, Hindenburg), a small five-pointed star above and below, circumscribed above ‘für Treue im Weltkriege’ (for Loyalty in the World War), circumscribed below ‘Der Kyffhäuserbund’, a sprig of laurel to either side; on original court mounting. The medal was instituted in 1922 and, until the issue of the Cross of Honour of the World War (Ehrenkreuz des Weltkrieges), better known as the ‘Hindenburg Cross’ in 1934, was often the only medal of the German soldiers of World War I. The Kyffhäuserbund der Deutschen Landeskriegerverbände veterans’ organisation was set up some years before World War I and Field Marshal Paul von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg was its President of Honour during the 1920s. After his death in 1934, the medal was amended by the National Socialist government with the addition of a cross gammée (Hackenkreuz or swastika). After WWI, a variety of German veteran organization sprang up across the country, keeping with a long-established tradition. One of these was the "Kyffhäuserbund" (Kyffhäuser Veteran's Organization) who issued a brass type oval medal to commemorate service in WWI. For many veterans, this was the only WWI service medal that was worn until the German Cross of Honor ("Ehrenkreuz") was officially established in 1934. After the Cross of Honor was authorized, many veterans continued wearing their unofficial medals so it is not uncommon to find this with an official medal grouping - usually worn on civilian clothes, band uniforms, etc. Obviously, if they were wearing their medals in official uniform, the medal wasn't allowed. It's interesting to note that many - if not most - of the organizations allowed veterans of the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian War to join - normally as honorary members - and allowed them to wear the organization's medals. On 2 May 1931, possibly the last Franco-Prussian War veteran joined. The main trivia point being that a Kyffhäuserbund Medal with a Franco-Prussian War Medal and 1897 Centenary Medal is unusual but certainly not impossible and does not indicate service in WWI. This very low cost medal is fairly well documented and illustrated on the internet. What generally isn't illustrated is the numerous devices or attachments that might be found with it but not necessarily. Since the veteran had to purchase the medal (often included in the initial membership fee), finances sometimes prevented buying every (or any!) device authorized. Each organization had a list of devices available and the veteran could make his own selection from that list, at an additional cost. The most common device found is the crossed swords (which indicate a combatant). Absence of the crossed swords does not necessarily mean that the recipient was a non-combatant, just that they are not on the ribbon. The medal is sometimes found with a laurel wreath supporting a diagonal sword (which usually indicates a naval combatant recipient - but it was the buyers decision). Other attachments are the various battle bars which closely resemble those found on the Franco-Prussian War Medal. Probably the most common is one that has "PARIS" (probably followed at a distant second by "YPRES") in black letters on the bar which is roughly the size of the ribbon width to almost doubled the size (depending on manufacturer). Other battle bars are available and have almost every German battle listed. The most bars I've seen attached to one medal was 7 but this one appeared to be a "made-up" grouping of bars. The rarest bars would possibly be ones for Africa (no originals are currently known). I've never seen a "country" bar - only battle associated. All devices and attachments are generally made of a similar metal as the medal but come in a wide variety of sizes and styles (depending on the manufacturer). The impressed names on the bars are usually filled in with black enamel. Most devices use a double prong back attachment although one series of the battle bars are the "slide-on" type and are large enough for a double-wrap ribbon.