The Iron Cross (Eisernes Kreuz) was instituted on 10 March 1813 by King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia during the War of Liberation against the Napoleonic French forces. Friedrich Wilhelm III. drew up the form itself, It was further desinged by the neo-classical architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel and reflects the cross of the Teutonic Knights in the late Middle Ages, which was also the emblem of Frederick the Great. It was awarded for bravery. In spite of its iconic image and fame, it has always been made of modest materials and issued in relatively large numbers. The order was simple black, framed with silver cast iron.The Iron Cross 1st Class and the Iron Cross 2nd Class were awarded without regard to rank. One had to possess the 2nd Class already in order to receive the 1st Class (though in some cases both could be awarded simultaneously). The Iron cross was originally a Prussian War award. It was reinstated in 1870-1871 for the Franco-Prussian War and again in 1914 for World War I.
Cross of iron wore the Foundation data in the lower arm of the cross 1813, 1870, 1914 . In 1813, the initials of the King graced the oak leaves in the upper arm of the cross in the middle. 1870 and 1914 the initials of Wilhelm I and Wilhelm II or the Prussian Royal Crown were engraved.
The W stands for Willem II, German emperor and King of Prussia.Oak leaves is a military symbol of immortality and fortitude in German martial art.
The black core in the cross is made of cast iron. The simplicity of this material stands for the chivalrous duty, the reluctance of a Prussian soldier and also symbolizes the Iron Age of classical mythology.
From 1813 to 1918, distinction 3 levels:
- Iron Cross 2.Class (EKII) ( Eiserne Kreuz 2. Klasse) with black and white band.
- Iron Cross 1.Class (EKI) ( Eiserne Kreuz 1. Klasse) with needle or disc
- Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (Großkreuz des Eiserne Kreuz)