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The German Eagle Order - 1st Type

Adolf Hitler created the German Eagle Order on May 1, 1937, based on a personal request of Foreign Minister Dr. Meissner1). The creation of the order finally enabled the German Reich to honor foreigners. The order would be awarded through the Fuehrer through proposal of the foreign minister. (click here for a copy of the "Reichsgesetzblatt" from 1937, showing the actual verbiage of the foundation of the order)

The order consisted of 5 grades, Grand Cross, Merit Cross with Star, Merit Cross 1st, 2nd and 3rd Grade as well as a Merit Medal.

Print out of Das III.Reich

Figure 1: Color Plate as found in “Das Dritte Reich”, “Das fuenfte Jahr 1937”, Hummelverlag, Berlin, shows the lineup as created on May 1, 1937, but mistakenly shows the 6 pointed star to the Merit Cross with Star as star to the Grand Cross. The Grand Cross star is an eight pointed star

All initially awarded decorations followed a manufacturer related, specific design until the first modification of the order’s statues on April 20, 1939.

It is assumed that the order as well as the medal was manufactured by Deschler & Sohn in Munich2) or Wilhelm Deumer in Luedenscheid3). It is assumed that a slight design changed occurred at or before April 20, 1939, with the change to its final manufacturer, Godet in Berlin4). The medals were now coined at either the Berlin or the Vienna Mint.

The initial design or 1st type is different to the final design:

a)       A more predominant design of the eagle.

Comparison of the Eagle Design

Figure 2: Side by side comparison of the eagle of two grand crosses (1st type to the left, 2nd type to the right)

b)       A flat-wire needle on the stars of the Grand Cross, star to the Merit Cross with Star and 2nd Grade in identical design as well as a simply flat reverse design of the decorations

Needle comparison

Figure 3: needle and reverse design comparison between 1st type to the right and one of the 2nd types to the left. Two Grand Cross stars.

c)       A simple ring shaped suspender compared to the fan suspender of the final version.

suspender comparison

Figure 4: Suspension comparison (Grand Cross 1st type to the left, 2nd type to the right)

d)       A metal content mark "900" on the frame of the lower cross arm of all crosses. The Grand Cross star as well as the star to Merit Cross show the word "Silber" and the silver content mark "800", the 2nd Grade shows the silver content mark "900" and the word “Silber”. The higher silver content provides a better base for the gilding process.

German Eagle Order Cross 900

Figure 5: Silver content mark 900 on lower cross arm

German Eagle Order 1st Class 900 German Eagle Order 2nd Class

Figure 6: Silver content markings on the 2nd class (right) and either star (left)

e)       the design of the avers of the merit medal shows clearly not only different proof marks, but has a completely different appearance due to a stippled design of the surface within the Maltese cross. The eagles are identical in design to the ones of the crosses of the first type.

German Eagle Order Merit Medal

Figure 7: Avers of the Merit Medal to the right in comparison to the medals with swords of the Vienna (right) and Berlin mint (middle)

Contrary to the later type medals, the 1st type shows just a "900" silver content mark on its rim.

Merit Medalsmerit medal  

Figure 8: Comparison between the different medal proof and maker marks. 1st Type medal to the right.

Adolf Hitler presented Benito Mussolini on September 28, 1937, with a special designed Grand Cross during his visit in Munich. The star of the set was encrusted in diamonds and was presented in a special case made from silver and amber.

German Eagle Order with Diamonds

Figure 9: Order set and case from Muenchner Neuste Nachrichten

Despite the fact that the statues don’t allow for swords for war merit, examples can be found with swords, attached in similar or equal technique as with the final design.

German Eagle Order 1st type with swords

Figure 10: 3rd Grade with Swords


Figure 10 also shows the specific description of the order inside the lid of the award case. All grades are addressed as "Orden vom Deutschen Adler". The merit Medal shows the wording "Verdienstmedaille". The cases are generally larger than those of the following order decorations. Yet, the transition to the smaller cases happened already during the timeframe of the 1st Type.


Who received the order and its medal during the initial two years of its existence? The natural circle of recipients belonged to those living in countries politically close to the German Reich. Italian and Spanish citizens were among the first to receive the new order. Yet, German friendly individuals were on the list to receive the new honor. The Chicago Tribune published a list of American recipients under the title:”…Hitler seeks friends” on November 25, 1938.

German Eagle Order awarded to US citizens German Eagle Order awarded to US citizens             Fredrick K. Krueger German Eagle Order 1st Grade
One of those award documents

Figure 11: Excerpt of the Chicago Tribune

Further awards to Americans occurred in 1938.

[General Motors,] as owner of Germany’s largest automobile factory, General Motors was quite naturally a more important factor in the Axis war effort than either Ford or Chrysler, whose investments were substantially less. GM’s participation in Germany’s preparation for the war began as early as 1935. That year its Opel subsidiary cooperated with the Reich in locating a new heavy truck facility at Brandenburg, which military officials advised would be less vulnerable to enemy air attack. During succeeding years, GM supplied the Wehrmacht with Opel “Blitz” trucks from the Brandenburg complex. For these and other contributions to wartime preparations, GM’s chief executive for overseas operations in 1938 was awarded the Order of the German Eagle (first class) by Adolf Hitler

Ford was also active in Nazi Germany’s prewar preparations. In 1938, for instance, it opened a truck assembly plant in Berlin whose “real purpose” according to U.S. Army intelligence, was producing “troop transport-type” vehicles for the Wehrmacht. That year Ford’s chief executive received the Nazi German Eagle (first class)5).

The order decorations:

The Crosses of the German Eagle Order

Figure 12: German Eagle Order crosses and medal 1st type

The Stars of the German Eagle Order

Figure 13: German Eagle Order 2nd Grade, Grand Cross Star and Star to the Merit Cross avers

German Eagle Order reverse

Figure 14: German Eagle Order 2nd Grade, Grand Cross Star and Star to the Merit Cross revers

 The award documents of the 1st type came just like the later ones in a handwritten addressed envelope inside a cardboard folder. Receipt paperwork was enclosed as well.

German Eagle Order Envelope

Figure 15: Envelope and Cardboard folder

Ramon Gutierrez-Alliende  Eraldo Ilari

Figure 16: Award Documents

Following are some 1st type decorations in greater detail. You may click on the image to get to ahigh resolution image for better detail and comparison.

German Eagle Order Merit Medal
Merit Medal
German Eagle Order 3rd Class
3rd Grade
German Eagle Order 2nd Class
2nd Grade
German Eagle Order 1st Class
1st Grade
German Eagle Order 1st Class Set
Merit Cross with Star
German Eagle Order Grand Cross
Grand Cross


As mentioned above, the size of the cases of particularly of the lower grades were adjusted down. Here a comparison of 2nd Grade cases. The earlier larger one houses a normal 2nd Grade, the smaller one a 2nd Grade with swords.

Comparison of Cases


1) Reichskanzlei, Akt. Betr. Orden und Ehrenzeichen – Allgemeine-Orden 1/Bd. 2 1934-1939, Bundesarchiv Koblenz

2) „Deutsche Orden und Ehrenzeichen bis 1945“, 2001, Band 4, Joerg Nimmergut, Page 1892.

3) „The Meritory Order of the German Eagle“, 2016, Jesus M. Franco Ruiz, Page 10.

4) The author does not know of any evidence that suggest the Deschler or Deumer theory.

5) “Critical Evaluations in Business and Management”, 2003, Alfred P. Sloan, Page 380



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© A. Schulze Ising, IV/17

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