For lack of a designated Weimar-era sub-forum, I felt it most appropriate to post this thread in the “Imperial Germany and Austro-Hungary” one.
Here is my latest acquisition: A nice example of the Deutsche Ehrendenkmünze des Weltkrieges [German Commemorative Honor Medal of the World War] with the Kampfabzeichen [Combat Device] complete with matching ribbon bar.
(This is admittedly a very common decoration, but the vast majority of the examples encountered are either in unmounted condition or appear alongside other decorations on medal bars, so I am quite pleased with this one. )
Obverse and reverse views:
Two detail views of the reverse. Due to the mounting technique, I cannot fully lift the ribbon to provide a full straight-on view, as this would surely damage the stitching with which the medal is affixed:
For those unfamiliar with the background of this medal, here is a brief history:
Following WWI, the Kyffhäuserbund veterans' association made a petition to the office of the Reichs Chancellor towards the creation of a commemorative medal for the Great War of 1914/18. After the matter had been passed through several government ministries, the Reichswehrminister [Secretary of the Armed Forces] pointed out the various difficulties that the creation of such a medal would involve (not least the cost for an estimated 15,000,000 required medals) and recommended the cabinet not to institute such a medal. The cabinet followed his proposal.
The consequence of this was that there would be no official decoration awarded for participation in World War I. This meant breaking with a long tradition. Such medals had existed since the wars of 1813/1815, but now, following the largest, most severe and most fateful conflict in all of Germany’s history, no such decoration would come to be.
Needless to say, this fact was extremely unpopular with WWI veterans who felt they were entitled to such a medal just like those who had fought in the earlier wars. In order to meet this demand and rectify the perceived injustice, a large number of unofficial decorations sprang up during the Weimar years, some awarded by already-existing veterans’ associations, some by new organizations that had been specifically created for this purpose, some born of genuine patriotic feelings, some primarily from good business sense.
Among the best-known and most significant of these unofficial decorations was the Deutsche Ehrendenkmünze des Weltkrieges [German Commemorative Honor Medal of the World War]. Its creation was proposed within the membership of the Verband nationalgesinnter Soldaten [Association of nationally-minded soldiers]. For the purpose of this project, an Ordensrat i.V. [Order Council i.V.] was created as a new body of the association in 1921. The “i.V.” is the abbreviation for “in Vertretung”, literally meaning “as substitute”, but better translated as “by proxy” or “per pro”. This suffix was used to make it clear that the council considered itself to be acting for the abdicated and exiled Kaiser and the government. However, it should be noted that the Kaiser-in-exile expressly distanced himself from the organization and the medal.
Around the time of the banning of the Verband in Prussia (1922/1923), the Ordensrat became an independent organization. Its members were former “old army” soldiers of all ranks, presided by an Ehrenmarschall [Honor Marshal], Kanzler [Chancellor] and Vorstand [Board].
The medal could be awarded to “all men and women whose worthiness of the decoration has been proven by their written word of honor declaring that they had striven to fulfill their duty for the German Fatherland to the best of their knowledge and conscience during the World War and the subsequent period”. Men who gave their word that they had faced the enemy as frontline combatants were awarded the additional Kampfabzeichen [Combat Device] which consisted of a sword-and-oak wreath device worn on the medal ribbon and ribbon bar.
These award criteria were extremely broad and vague and meant that just about any patriotic German – man or woman, soldier or civilian – who had supported their country in any way at all during the war years qualified for the basic medal. Active frontline soldiers were distinguished by the Kampfabzeichen, but of course, none of the recipients had to actually prove their eligibility for the medal or the combat device beyond saying so.
However, it was fully intended to bestow the medal on as many recipients as possible: Holders of the medal who so wished became members of the so-called Deutsche Ehrenlegion [German Legion of Honor] whose board was identical to that of the Ordensrat i.V., but which was otherwise independent of the latter. With the Ehrenlegion, it was very much desired to create a large, nationwide, patriotic association with the medal as its common decoration and identifying insigne.
When all unofficial Weimar-era decorations were banned by new laws of 15 May 1934, the Ordensrat i.V., ceased its activities and voluntarily disbanded with its final board meeting of 28 July 1934. Existing profits of 15,000 Reichsmarks were donated to the government, to be used for the benefit of the war-disabled. The Deutsche Ehrenlegion continued for a while, but was eventually absorbed by the Kyffhäuserbund.
The look of the medal and its ribbon were based on a design that the artist Franz Stassen (1869 – 1949) had submitted to the German government in the last months of World War I. Since 1917, plans had been made to institute a commemorative medal for participants in the Great War and, after the Kaiser and King of Prussia Wilhelm II. as well as all other German regents had agreed, the actual design process begin in July 1918. However, as we have seen, the end of the German monarchy and the subsequent political changes put an end to this project.
In Stassen’s original design, the obverse of the medal featured a portrait of Kaiser Wilhelm II. For the final Ehrendenkmünze, Stassen designed a new obverse depicting the goddess of victory crowning a soldier with a laurel wreath, whereas the reverse (showing a 1914 Iron Cross with the words “FÜRS VATERLAND” [“FOR THE FATHERLAND”] and decorative oak leaves ornamentation) and the ribbon in Germany’s national colors of black, white and red were unchanged from the initial design.
The medal came in bronze, copper-toned and gold-plated variants.