13 February 2023
Jamie Cross takes a look at the awards handed out by Hitler for long service to the German state.
When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933 as German Chancellor, he inherited an archaic and out of date system that mixed between Wehrmar, German States and even Monarchists awards dating back to World War I. With unification of Germany and its people, Hitler used the psychology of belonging and reward, to encourage a united Germany. Apart from using uniforms, he also instituted Long Service awards across the sphere of German life - civil servants, train drivers, bakers, road sweepers were all encouraged and rewarded with Long Service awards.
German Armed Forces Long Service awards
The best place to start is the awards issued for long service in the armed forces (Wehrmacht, Kreigsmarine and Luftwaffe). Instituted on 16 March 1936, these awards replaced earlier Long Service issues at the wearer’s discretion. These awards were awarded to both officers and men and came in two distinct forms. For four years service, a silver medal was given. For 12 years of service there was a gilt medal. These have the same basic front design with only the colour changing. You could qualify for a silver, 18 year service cross also, and then a 25 year gilt service cross, which is larger than the silver cross. To the reverse of all these awards are their corresponding years. So for example, on the four year medal there is a ‘4’ on the reverse in an oakleaf ring. On the crosses, they are just the numbers ‘18’ or ‘25’ for the years.
All the crosses and medals were suspended from a cornflower colour blue ribbon and these then had to complement the Wehrmacht eagle holding a swastika to the front of the award, a silver or gold eagle emblem on the ribbon. These emblems were either a flying Luftwaffe eagle or a straight-armed eagle, as used on the service tunics of the respected forces. Therefore, you can tell a Luftwaffe man’s medal from a member of the Army or Navy, but not between those two services.
The awards are usually made from a good quality metal (some being magnetic) and the four years, and 12 years are quite common, whereas the 18 and 25 command higher prices. Sometimes, on the 25 year cross, you will find a golden oakleaf emblem, which denotes 40 years of service and is very rare. These awards came in paper packets with the names printed onto the fronts, and at the same time an award document was given to the service man and it was entered in his service record.
Left: Army Long Service awards for four year and 25 year plus an award document
Civilian Faithful Service awards
Civilian life was not left out and on 30 January 1938, a special award was created in three grades. The Faithful Service Cross is often overlooked by medal collectors who tend to go for more glamorous awards. The basic design is the same for all three grades and each one is worn from a blue colour cornflower ribbon. The award is made up with a cross with oakleaves between the arms and a black enamel swastika to the centre. It was awarded for 25 years of service in silver, 40 years came in gilt metal and for 50 years it has a silver cross with a gilt ‘50’ to the top arm over the black enamel swastika. Between the arms is a golden oakleaf band.
To the reverse of the 25 and 40 year crosses is the inscription: ‘Fur Treue Dienste’ (For Loyal Service). The 50 has the wording: ‘Fur Treue Arbeit’ (For Loyal work). When awarded, these awards came with a certificate and the 25 year cross came in a simple red two-piece box. The 40 and 50 came in a red case or box with the number ‘40’ or ‘50’ in gilt lettering to the lid. These crosses are reasonably priced with only the 50 year one being hard to find.
Left: The front and back of a 25 year and then a 40 year Faithful Service cross plus their cases
Right: The rare 50 year Faithful Service cross, front and back, by No 1 Deschler
The Police Long Service awards
At the same time the Police awards were added, beginning with an eight year service medal in silver. You could, depending on service, qualify for either an 18 year or 25 year service cross. Again these awards were worn on a blue ribbon but, like their military counterparts, the 18 year cross has a white police eagle embroidered on the ribbon and the 25 year cross has a yellow eagle emblem on its ribbon, as to match the silver 18 year cross or the gilt 25 year service cross.
All these awards have the police eagle emblem to their respective awards and the numbers of years to the reverse. Again, a citation would be given and the award was presented in a green box for the eight year and a green case for the 18 year and 25 year crosses. All have their grade of years stamped to the lid. The police eight year award is the lowest in value with the other two commanding a higher price, if they have their correct ribbons.
Right: The Police Long Service medal for eight years and the Police Long Service crosses in cases. Notice the ribbon emblems on the 18 year and 25 year service crosses
Long Service awards of the National Labour Service
Instituted on the same date as the above awards, these oval medals show to the centre, the RAD designs of the cap badge for both male and females. The man’s award has an up-pointed spade with a swastika to the centre flanked by two ears of corn, while the woman’s award has just a swastika and two ears of corn. These awards come in bronze for four years service, worn on a plain blue ribbon. Silver for 12 years of service, again worn on a plain blue ribbon. A silver award for 18 years of service comes with the national eagle and swastika in silver on the ribbon. Finally, there is the 25 years service award, in gilt with a gilt eagle to the blue ribbon. Conscripted labour did not qualify you for this award and as such these awards are hard to find.
The bronze four year and silver 12 year awards come in a brown card box and the 18 year and 25 year awards come in a nice brown hard two piece hinged case with the years again printed to the lids. Female awards can be found mounted on a bowed ribbon and on the whole, are much rare than the mens’ award. The 25 year service awards are very hard to find whether male or female. It is worth pointing out that all the awards are the same size, but you will find some are made from heavy tombak and plated, others are coupal, being very light.
Left: RAD Long service awards in Bronze, silver and gold. Notice the different designs with the spade type for men and the larger swastika for women (top centre)
The SS Long Service awards
Contrary to popular belief, the SS service awards were not for the Waffen SS, but were instituted for the SS Verfugungstruppen, SS Totenkopfverbande and members of the SS Junkerschulen who were on active service. Other members of the SS were only entitled to the NSDAP service crosses making these awards more scarce, as fewer members qualified.
The awards follow the armed forces criteria of a set of four awards and instead of being for four, 12, 18 and 25 years, the SS awards were for four, eight, 12, and 25 years. These decorations were designed by Professer Karl Diebitsch of Munich, who was an early party member N. 1436, although his membership lapsed, and the institution date was 30 January 1938.
Right: Cased SS service awards from left to right: Four year service medal, eight year service medal, the rare 12 year service cross and the extremely rare 25 year service cross in gilt
To qualify for the award, the recipient had to have served honourably for a number of years and as an officer, you could not be awarded the four year service award. This was, however, open to other ranks. These awards were issued in retrospect of service and service from 1925 to 1933 (the time of struggle until the Nazi Party gained power) counted double. So those eight years counted as 16 years. For example, Untersturmfuhre Otto Mooseburger whose SS membership number was 489 and joined the SS in 1928, at the time of institution of these awards, was entitled to both the eight year service award and the 12 year service award as he had 15 years credit. Also, those who had undertaken military service within the armed forces but still kept up their NSDAP/SS membership were also accredited with double years for their military service. So with this, it is possible that some 25 year service awards were issued.
The awards are of two main designs, being a circular medal in black metal for the four year awards and bronze for the eight. Both these awards have the SS runes as the central design with the four years being encompassed by an oakleath wreath. To the reverse it says: ‘Fur Treue Dienste in der SS’ over the top of a number ‘4’. The eight year award is the same, except that the front has the SS runes within an oakleaf wreath which is laid over a swastika. To the reverse it, again, says: ‘Fur Treue Dienste in der SS’ over the top of a number ‘8’ for eight years. Then the design moves onto a swastika cross with the SS runes within an oakleaf wreath (this is the design as shown on the eight year medal). The 12 year cross is in silver and the 25 year cross is in gold. These are of one piece stampings and do not have the wreath glued or soldered to the centre.
Left: A pair of SS service awards for four years and eight years, shown with the institution document
All the awards are about 38mm in diameter and are suspended from a blue ribbon, usually 35 mm wide for the medals and from 35mm to 50mm wide for the service crosses. These ribbons have silver or gold bullion runes sewn to them. When only the ribbon bar was worn, a pair of SS runes in either gold or silver denoted the holder had either 12 years or 25 years service. Or, if it was the eight year award, a mini emblem was affixed to the ribbon, and the same is true of the four year.
All the awards were originally issued in a case or award box that has the SS runes to the lid. The four year and eight year boxes are just card paper hinged construction with a mouse grey colour flocking base divided into two and a piece stuck to the lid. The cases are in black leatherette, with either white (four year) or silver (eight year) runes to the lid. The cases for the 12 year and 25 year crosses are again similar to each other but these are hard cases with hinges and press studs. These also have silver (12 year) and gold (25 year) runes to the lid with white silk to the underside and red flocked two part bases affixed by glue to the bottoms. This was done to separate the ribbon from the award.
These awards normally have an unusual tear drop eye ring on most of them, though at least one manufacturer stuck to the usual rounded type. On the tear drop types, the eye ring that is soldered onto the awards is also champfered. Buyers need to be aware these awards have been heavily copied, especially the 12 year and 25 year awards, as these are obviously very rare.
The Customs Service decoration
This bronze cross is similar to that of the German Long Service Police Cross and is in some ways linked to this force. Given for four years of service, for uniform staff and eight years service if employed in a civilian service. The bronze cross has an eagle to the centre on a wreath of oakleaves that do not link to the top. To the reverse is the wording: ‘Fur treue Dienste im Zollgrenzschutz’ (For loyal Service in the Customs Service), suspended again from a blue cornflower ribbon that has a golden eagle and wreath embroidered into it. The award was given in a green box with no markings and an award citation was issued at the same time. This award along with other long service awards, was worn on the lefthand breast pocket of the tunic after any military awards, if held.
Right: The Custom Service cross with ribbon showing the front and the back
The NSDAP Long Service award
Also the NSDAP instituted a loyal and long service cross for party members. These crosses came in the following classes and corresponded to the years of service:
A plain bronze cross was given for 10 years loyal service.
A blue and silver edge cross for 15 years of loyal service.
A white and gold edge cross for 25 years of loyal service.
Qualifying required the stated amount of years service, but the time of struggle counted as double, so from 1925-1932 counted as 16 years of service. By the time war broke out in 1939, any long serving NSDAP member had enough service for the 10 and 15 year service crosses and as war time counted double also, the 25 year service awards were given in 1940, if serving in the party at the start. As a result, this last award is very rare to find. All of these party awards were noted down into the NSDAP party record book and citations was also issued.
The ribbons on the NSDAP cross break with tradition and each cross has its own unique ribbon. For the 10 year Long Service award in bronze, there is a brown ribbon with two narrow white strips at the edges. The 15 years, silver cross has a blue ribbon with again two thin white strips to the edge. The 25 years, gilt cross has a red ribbon with a thin red, white gold and white edge strip to either side. (There is a feature on this award in the April 2023 issue of The Armourer)
Left: NSDAP 10 years, the rare 25 years and scarce 15 years NSDAP service crosses with their cases
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