What were the prerequisites for being awarded an Iron Cross first or second class?

Were there stricter requrements for getting an Iron Cross 1st class than an Iron Cross 2nd class?

What happened when a soldier, already having the Iron Cross 2nd class, performed an act that would give him another one?

Could the Iron Cross be awarded multiply?

What I gathered up to now:

  • The Iron Cross was awarded regardless of rank, i.e. from enlisted men up to officers
  • Having already Iron Cross 2nd class was required for being able to be awarded the Iron Cross 1st class
  • There were much less Iron Crosses 1st class awarded than Iron Cross 2nd class
  • The Iron Cross was awarded for bravery
  • 2
    The name "Second Class" is, perhaps, misleading. It did not mean that it was somehow "inferior" or "second-rate". It was simply the first Iron Cross awarded to a soldier. For a comparable feat of valour, the soldier might then receive the Iron Cross, First Class. Thus, a soldier's first heroic act earned an Iron Cross, second class, and his second action earned him an Iron Cross first class. Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 1:35
  • Then, what about the third and fourth action? So the fact, that I can find no explicit requirements for 1st class and 2nd class, indicates, that the 1st class Iron Cross is indicative of at least 2 Iron-Cross-worthy actions, and there are no higher requirements for the 1st class Iron Cross?
    – Dohn Joe
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 1:56
  • Yes, an Iron Cross first class indicates at least 2 Iron-Cross-worthy actions. The only additional requirement for the Iron Cross first class was that the recipient should already hold an Iron Cross 2nd class. AFAIK, there was no new award for a third/fourth/fifth/... action. Despite that, only about 218,000 1st-class Iron Crosses were awarded during the 1st World War. Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 2:07
  • 1
    You didn't get bars added to the Iron Cross, but a higher version of it. 2nd class > 1st class > knight's cross > with swords > with swords and oak leaves > etc. The highest version was worn, not the lesser versions.
    – Jos
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 3:45

2 Answers 2


I find one time and group which used a 'point system' for attaining the Iron Cross and other awards, and that was among the Luftwaffe during World War 2. According to the book Luftwaffe Over Germany: Defense of the Reich ,By Don Caldwell, Richard Muller, a point system was in place which qualified pilots to receive rewards according to 'success' in combat. For instance points were allocated by planes shot down:

1 point          single engine fighter. 
2 points         twin-engine bomber.
4 points         four engine bomber.

The points then qualified the pilots for awards:

Iron Cross 2nd class       1 point.
Iron Cross 1st Class       3 points.
Honor Cup                  10 points.
German Cross in Gold       20 points.
Knight's Cross             40 points

So this gives you some idea of what each award was 'worth', at least to the Luftwaffe during WW2.


There were four levels of "crosses." These were the Iron Crosses Second and First Class, the Knights Cross, and the Grand Gross. The first three of these "crosses" were awarded for successive acts of bravery. The Grand Cross was awarded to high-ranking officers for brilliant strategic decisions.

It was Hitler (a former corporal) who introduced the Knight's Cross to make it accessible to enlisted men. (It replaced the Pour le Merit that, like the Grand Gross, was available only to officers.) Then numerous gradations or decorations of Knights Cross were introduced such as oak leaves, swords, and diamonds, to allow for more awards.

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