A comprehensive guide to collecting post war German WW2 1957 De-Nazified Military Decorations, their manufacturing techniques and detecting the fakes, valuations of original TYPE 1 and TYPE 2 German decorations.
The year of 1945 brought an absolute destruction to Germany and especially to the industrial military medal making center in Berlin, Hamburg and Dresden. Germans needed food, houses, clothes - the last thing they needed were medals and badges.
The nucleus of the newly formed West German Bundeswehr (Federal Defence Force) was created from those who had served in Hitler's legions during WW2. The West German government passed a new federal law in 1957 that specific Third Reich orders were now permitted for wear without the Swastika. These are known as " German 1957 Award Pieces " these 1957 awards are official and genuine and are now becoming quite collectable.
The Gesetz ueberTitel, Orden und Ehrenzeichen ("Law of Titles, Orders and Honours"), is a federal law of Germany detailing the treatment and handling procedures for civilian and military decorations. The laws was put into affect on July 26,1957. The law outlines numerous stipulations and rulings for previously conferred medals and military decorations. Inpractice the law conforms to German criminal code, particularly 86a, which forbids distribution or public display of Nazi symbolism without historical academic cause.
Medals from 1933 to 1945 may only be worn if the National Socialist symbol are removed (Swastika, SS runes, etc) Section 6 paragraph 2 specifically reiterates that medals with National Socialist emblems may not be worn. They may not be produced, offered, inventoried, sold or used in commerce in any form. ( I must add a note here, this part of not being allowed to sell decorations with a Nazi Swastika no longer applies as every military dealer in Germany today is selling original Third Reich Decorations, I should know as I buy only from German dealers.
The main government contract to manufacture and supply these new de-nazified WW2 1957 official decorations to WW2 German Veterans entitled to these awards went to the world famous German firm Steinhauer & Lueck, Luedenscheid Germany. Knights Crosses, Iron Crosses , Wound Badges, Tank Assault Badges etc were re-designed by Steinhauer & Lueck - often with the oak-leaf spray replacing the swastika, with S&L having the sole patent rights to all WW2 1957 German decorations.
S&L did not have the whole monopoly on medal making the new Federal German 1957 re-issue decorations, the second Government contract went to Wilhelm Deumer, Ludenscheid this company only made 1957 awards until the late 1960's, the other non Government contracted manufacturers were firms such as Deschler & Sohn, BH Maher and Juncker also manufactured these new German decorations.
Luedenscheid is situated between the cities Dortmund and Bonn. It was here that one of the youngest medal firms was founded in 1889 by August Steinhauer and Gustav Adolf Lueck. The first production began in a cellar, the customer base continued to increase. A property was bought at 51 Hochstrasse which is still home for this famous company today. During WW2 Steinhauer & Lueck produced medals and badges, like the famous Knights Cross and many other types of medals and badges. In 1957 this company was awarded the contract to produce all the newly re-designed legal WW2 1957 de-nazified decorations, plus the contract to manufacture all of Germany's official decorations including Germany's highest order the Bundesverdienstkreuz.
Summary of the new German 1957 Regulations:
Only certain wartime medals may be worn in the new form (de-nazified) and a list is available showing samples of the new style. All other Nazi awards are banned, Nazi medals must not be bought/made/sold or traded. There is a 3 month prison sentence and/or a fine for breach of regulations Examples of Medals which are banned: and not available in the 1957 new form: SS Awards such as SS Long Service, Mothers Crosses, NSDAP and Rally Badges.
There are two types of what are classed as original WW2 1957 version decorations. The first is the TYPE 1 these are the very high quality early pieces manufactured as were worn by serving Heer (Army), Marine (Navy) and Luftwaffe (Air Force) soldier's and Officers in the late 1950's and 1960's and by WWII Veterans' at their annual unit reunions. The 1957 German Knight Cross of the Iron Cross matches exactly its 1939 counterpart, measuring 48mm x 48mm (W&H), and the Iron Cross First Class & Second Class measuring 44mm x44mm (W&H), it was made of the correct three-part construction with magnetic center core for the TYPE 1 and a non Iron cores for the TYPE 2. Early examples had frames stamped from the same dies as those used during WW2. And are found with an "800" silver content mark on the reverse of the frame. A nice original TYPE 1 cased Knight Cross is worth around $900 to 1200 USD a TYPE 2 cased set $300 to 500 USD
Close to 500 of the original 7,631 Third Reich Ritterkreuzträger (Knights Cross Recipients) served in the newly formed Bundeswehr with 60 recipients also wearing their 1939 Oak Leaves and 10x with Oak Leaves & Swords. At first when this new law was passed most of the WW2 veteran's now serving Deutschland in uniform again simply wore their Third Reich Knights Crosses with only the reverse plain side showing, or more commonly as a medal bar attachment. Other badges they simply filed the Swastika from their decorations. Once these newly redesigned 1957 became finally available in late 1958, Ritterkreuzträger became responsible for purchasing this new from of 1957 Knights Cross privately. Finding a late 1950's to early 1960's TYPE 1 Knights Cross or Iron Cross is well worth the effort as they are classed as very rare and highly prize by collector's
In the late 1960's S&L changed the center cores on all Iron Crosses from a magnetic Iron center type core to a non Iron core, to prevent cores from rusting, these original TYPE 2 Knights Crosses are still made with genuine solid 800. fine silver content frames and are marked as such on the reverse of the frame 800 still made to German Government regulation with correct a three-part construction, a very stunning piece to admire and add to your military collection. These non magnetic core Iron Crosses are classed as the TYPE 2 originals. TYPE 1 pieces are the most highly prized by collector's worldwide as they have the highest collector's value as they are becoming extremely hard to find these days..
By the early 1970' the vast number of different badges seized being manufactured by S&L, badges like the Panzer Assault Badges, Pilots Badges, General Assault Badge, Luftwaffe Paratrooper Badges etc, so these pieces again are very collectable now, some of these badges are still obtainable in a near mint condition from certain well known dealers in Germany that managed to purchase all of the old stock from Steinhauer & Lueck.
COPIES: To fill the void, copies of all types of rare 1957 badges & medals started being manufactured in Germany for the collector's market. You can easily tell these fakes apart from the original S&L pieces as they are not of a multi part construction, they are cheaply pressed and usually only of a one piece construction, they lack the very sharp extra fine detail of the original pieces, you will find these being sold on eBay Germany and eBay USA . The Chinese never really got into making 1957 German medals and badges, as they mainly concentrated on making Third Reich copies. One dealer in the USA and another in Canada do however sell a cheaply made Chinese copy of the 1957 Knights Cross, very easy to detect as it is of a very poor quality and only of a one piece construction and they actually tell you that it is a copy. One of the best fake 1957 Knights Crosses we have seen and is made from the correct 3 piece construction is made in Germany hallmarked (makers marked) Fa-St.u.L.
As a collector, you should always strive to find the rarer early TYPE 1 pieces. Steinhauer & Lueck still manufacture certain types of original TYPE 2 decorations, these are classed as "100% GENUINE" by the GERMAN FEDERAL GOVERNMENT and by all EXPERTS IN GERMAN MILITARIA. Remember Steinhauer & Lueck received the main contract in 1957 to manufacture all of Germany's official decorations including the 1957 decorations, and have all the patent rights.
If you find a 1957 German Decoration that you are not 100% sure about then before buying, just ask the Wehrmacht-Awards.com Forum, they have a special section of the forum just dedicated to 1957 German decorations called 1957 MEDALS / ORDERS AND DECORATIONS.
The revised 1957 German Cross in Gold and Silver class, with S&L holding the patent rights S&L came up with a novel approach to replace the Swastika on the German Cross in Gold with the shape of an Iron Cross, and in the case of the German Cross in Silver the new type 1957 version of the War Merit Cross. Measuring 64mm x 64.mm (W &H)
These original pieces by Steinhauer & Lueck are still made as per the correct war time "6 PART CONSTRUCTION" with the correct "4 DOMED RIVETS" showing on the reverse, exactly as S&L used to make this particular decoration during WW2. The early TYPE 1's are very scarce and easily distinguishable from a S&L TYPE 2 cross as the red circle on the early types is Enameled and not painted. Deschler & Sohns version of this decoration differs slightly on the reverse as they used 4 hollow rivets.
The most common copy of this cross that is sold on eBay is made in Germany of an incorrect one piece or only of two part construction, as the correct 6 Part war time construction with the original 4 Dome Rivets is way to complicated and expensive to manufacture. A nice TYPE 1 with Ion Core cased set is worth around $700 to $1000 USD and a TYPE 2 $300 to 500 USD.