Wehrpass Hans Meier

Hans Meier was also awarded the Ost Medaille. The ‘East Medal’, Winterschalcht im Osten, was a highly coveted award that was given by soldiers that had served on the Eastern Front between November 17th 1941 and April 26th 1942. The award criteria was as follows:

  • 14 days served in active combat within the specified area between November 15, 1941 – April 15, 1942
  • 60 days served in specified area between November 15, 1941 – April 15, 1942, non-combat
  • Wounded in action
  • Killed in action (posthumous award)
  • Injury caused by frostbite (or another injury related to the climate) severe enough to warrant the issue of a Wound Badge

As Hans joined his Division in January 1942 he more than met the second criteria for its award. Due to the large numbers of frostbitten cases during this period it was  know as ‘The Order of the Frozen Flesh’ by the troops, unofficially of course! Over 3,000,000 were awarded and a ribbon in red, white and black was won in the same button hole as the ribbon for the Iron Cross Second Class, the Ost Medaille ribbon worn at an angle just below that of the Iron Cross. The award was introduced on the 26th May 1942 and there are a plethora of dates and issuing units on the many Urkunde issued. Here is Hans’:

A photo of Hans’s Medal

War Merit Cross with Swords

from Wiki

Grounds for award

This award was created by Adolf Hitler in 1939 as a successor to the non-combatant Iron Cross which was used in earlier wars (same medal but with a different ribbon). The award was graded the same as the Iron Cross: War Merit Cross Second Class, War Merit Cross First Class, and Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross. The award had two variants: with swords given to soldiers for exceptional service in battle above and beyond the call of duty (but not worthy of an Iron Cross which was more a bravery award), and without swords for meritorious service behind the lines which could also be awarded to civilians. Recipients had to have the lower grade of the award before getting the next level. There was also another version below the 2nd class simply called the War Merit Medal (German: Kriegsverdienstmedaille), set up in 1940 for civilians in order to offset the large number of 2nd class without swords being awarded. It was usually given to those workers in factories who significantly exceeded work quotas.

One notable winner of the War Merit Cross was William Joyce (aka Lord Haw-Haw) who received both the second and first class, both without swords. Recipients of the Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross customarily received the medal from holders of the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross, to symbolize the link between the combat soldier and their supporters, who helped maintain the war effort.

There was one extra grade of the War Merit Cross, which was created at the suggestion of Albert Speer: The Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross in Gold, but this was never officially placed on the list of national awards as it came about in 1945 and there was no time to officially promulgate the award before the war ended. The Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross in Gold (without swords) was awarded ‘on paper’ to two recipients on 20 April 1945: Franz Hahne and Karl-Otto Saur.

The ribbon of the War Merit Cross was in red-white-black-white-red; that was, the red and black colors being reversed from the ribbon of the World War II version of the Iron Cross. The ribbon for the War Merit Medal was similar, but with a narrow red vertical red strip in the center of the black field. Soldiers who earned the War Merit Cross 2nd Class with Swords wore a small crossed-swords device on the ribbon. The War Merit Cross 1st Class was a pin-backed medal worn on the pocket of the tunic (like the Iron Cross 1st Class). The ribbon of the War Merit Cross 2nd Class could be worn like the ribbon of the Iron Cross 2nd Class (through the third buttonhole).

Combat soldiers tended to hold the War Merit Cross in low regard, referring to its wearers as being in ‘Iron Cross Training’, and prior to 28 September 1941, the War Merit Cross could not be worn with a corresponding grade of the Iron Cross, which took precedence.

A total of 118 awards of the Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross with swords, and 137 awards of the Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross without swords were awarded. Considering the relative rarity of the award compared with the grades of the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross, it took on extra meaning. For example, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring made a concerted effort to get Hitler to award him this order, much to Hitler’s annoyance. In response, Hitler outlined a series of criteria governing the awarding of this decoration and the philosophy of such awards, and directed that “prominent party comrades” were not to be awarded with the Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross (or similar decorations), and withdrew the proposed awards of this order to Gauleiter Erich Koch and State Secretary Karl Hanke. Directing his comments at Göring personally, Hitler ordered that such attempts to gain this award be stopped (from a letter dated 27 August 1943 from Führerhauptquartier). Also, the scarcity of the award of the Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross compared with the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross gave it an “air of exclusiveness” it did not really deserve, as it ranked below the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross.

Six persons received two Knights Cross’ of the War Merit Cross (one with Swords and one without Swords): Walter Brugmann, Julius Dorpmuller, Karl-Otto Saur, Albin Sawatzki, Walter Schreiber, and Walter Rohlandt.

Wehrpass Hans Meier

I have started to research the grouping to Hans Meier, a soldier that served in the Wehrmacht during World War Two in the maintenance and work shop company of the 16th Infantry Division. This Division was a very famous division in the German Army and was indeed a motorised one. It fought in the campaigns in the West and was part of PanzerGruppe 1, Army Group South when Operation Barbarossa started on the 22nd June 1941. It fought at Dubno, Kiev and then held the line around Kursk when the Red Army counter attacked during that first Winter of the Russo-German War. Hans joined the Division in January 1942 and thus missed the first battles in Russia but was with the 16th when Fall Blau, the German summer offensive in 1942 that culminated with the defeat at Stalingrad, started in mid 1942. The battle list in his Wehrpass is long and detailed and I will go into it in a later post but the 16th Motorised Infantry Division drove eastwards across the steppe towards the Great Bend of the Don and then the Volga. It was not swept up in the maelstorm of Stalingrad as it was largely kept in reserve during late summer and autumn and when the Russian counter offensive encircled Sixth Army in Stalingrad in November 1942. MOre detail later. Hans was awarded two medals. The first was the Ost Medaille, or Winter Medal, detailed later, and the second was the Kriegsverdienstkreuz II Klasse mit Schwerten, War Merit Cross with Swords Second Class. He also was awarded the corresponding Urkunde (certificate) that was signed personally by his divisional commander Sigfrid Henrici.

I was also able to acquire the medal itself