by Matt Gibbs

The origin of the Adlerschild des Deutches Reich's came about after the unrest and political reform within Germany following World War One. The turmoil within a defeated Germany in 1919 led to all kinds of unrest, the end result being the creation of the German republic. Before and during the war the various Germanic units and states had had their own awards and decorations, which [apart form the Iron Cross] were particular to their own troops and populations, there was no truly national German award. It was decided to offer a contract for a design for a national award to selected designers and artists for the creation of an award that would be a high national decoration of the republic to recognise outstanding life achievement.

The Eagle Shield of Germany was a brand new award which was introduced by the Weimar Government on 15th November 1922. This was to be the first among a number of national honours later to be introduced following the prohibition of portable medals and honours of the German states following the end of World War One. [It was also forbidden for Germans to accept the honours and awards of foreign governments.] The Weimar government wished to break with some of the old 'pomp' and traditions of the former Imperial German states and create it's own national identity, highlighting the inherent strength of the German nation recovering in the aftermath of World War One.

The Office of the Reichskunstwart was involved in the design of the award and sent out tenders in 1921.After the design and selection process they issued a press statement regarding the form of this new honour award. This detailed the reason behind the award and the new design of the Reichsadler. It gave the following observations; "The simplification of the eagle design relates to the shaping of the plumage, the tighter lines of the body neck and head. The design is produced in a strong relief which means this can be adapted to be suitable for the production of coinage because it is close to the edges of the borders and the relief height of the design means the technical achievements needed can be met." It was the winning design of Josef Wackerle who completed it in 1921 in response to the brief from the Treasury. The shield was 108m.m. across and made of cast bronze with a base plinth and special personal inscription on the reverse as well as the name of the recipient. On the obverse was the design of the Reichsadler. Apparently it came in a leather presentation case. This was the first appearance of the new Reichsadler on an award and the design became a model for other medals and awards manufacturers.

During the time of the Weimar government the presentation awards had different styles of lettering and design incorporated into the reverse, making the award of a more personal nature. Some of the shield reverses are quite artistic in comparison to the later standardised Third Reich examples. The pictures below serve to illustrate this variety of design:

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The Ministry of the Interior had the responsibility for processing the nominations for the award on behalf of the Reichsprasident. Ebert made the first award of the Adlerschild to Gerhart Hauptmann on the occasion of his 60th birthday. This became the highest honour award of the Republic. It was usually accompanied in the Weimar period by a hand written letter from the President and was awarded to figures from the worlds of Science, Art and Culture or the Economy. Generally it was given to those who had reached 70 or 75 years of age.

There are very, very few of these awards remaining in the aftermath of World War Two, it is supposed that since the end of the war they have become lost or destroyed. 19 of these awards were made by the Weimar Republic and the complete list of recipients is below. There was a further development of this award after the 1933 elections and the National Socialist German Workers Party came into power. The shield's design was altered by the adaptation of the 'new' updated Reichsadler which incorporated the swastika. The shield was presented up to and during the war years to similar important figures. There were a further 38 presentations before the end of 1944 where records cease due to the war situation and as with the earlier Weimar design, are considered extremely rare.

eagleshield1eagleshield2

The award pictured is one of those restyled by the the NSDAP after coming to power in 1933. This means that the eagle was re-designed to include the swastika wreath as a symbol of both the state and the government. The shield was presented where possible personally by Hitler. The pictured shield was awarded on the 4th February 1941 to the German Colonial Pioneer Heinrich Schnee. The scarcity of these awards, as previously mentioned, is such that the author has not been able to source a picture of the original Weimar period disc and is not aware of one coming onto the market in recent years. The author would be grateful to any reader with any additional information on this non portable award.

The author has reproduced this list of the recipients of the award and would like to acknowledge the work of Wolfgang Steguweit whose work printed in a German magazine a number of years ago was of considerable help in compiling this article. Grateful thanks also to Bill Stump for some additional facts and pictures supplied and also information via the world wide web including Marcus Wendel's own Axis History Forum found at :- http://forum.axishistory.com

If anyone has any further information on this award or of surviving awards the author would be grateful to receive it.

List of recipients of the Weimar Eagle Shield

  1. Gerhart Hauptmann, 15. November 1922, 60th Birthday, Text:
    DEM DICHTER UND SEHER / IN DESSEN WERK / DIE SEELE / DES DEUTSCHEN VOLKES / ZUM LICHTE RANG
    [Poet and Philosopher - for his work and contributions to the German People]
  2. Paul Wagner, 7. März 1923, 80th Birthday, Text:
    DEM / BAHNBRECHENDEN / ERFINDER / DEM FÖRDERER / DER DEUTSCHEN / BODENKULTUR
    [The innovative and inventive promoter of the German Blood and Soil culture]
  3. Emil Warburg, 9. März 1926, 80th Birthday
    DEM BEGRÜNDER DER DEUTSCHEN EXPERIMENTALPHYSIK
    [The Founder of German Experimental Physics]
  4. Adolf von Harnack, 7. Mai 1926, 75th Birthday, Text:
    DEM TRÄGER DEUTSCHER BILDUNG
    [For services to the German Education system]
  5. Max Liebermann, 20. Juli 1927, 80th Birthday, Text:
    DEM MEISTER
  6. Max Planck, 23. April 1928, 70th Birthday, Text:
    DEM GROSSEN DEUTSCHEN PHYSIKER
    [The Great German Physicist]
  7. Hans Delbrück, 11. November 1928, 80th Birthday, Text:
    DEM GROSSEN DEUTSCHEN GESCHICHTSFORSCHER
    [The great German Historical Researcher]
  8. Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Möllendorff, 22. Dezember 1928, 80th Birthday, Text:
    DEM GROSSEN GELEHRTEN / UND KÜNDER KLASSISCHER BILDUNG
    [The great German Scholar and Classic Educationalist]
  9. Wilhelm Kahl, 17. Juni 1929, 80th Birthday, Text:
    DEM HÜTER UND GESTALTER DES RECHTS
    [?]
  10. Lujo Brentano, 18. Dezember 1929, 85th Birthday, Text:
    DEM GROSSEN WIRTSCHAFTSLEHRER UND FÖRDERER DEUTSCHER SOZIALPOLITIK
    [Great promoter of German Socialist Politics]
  11. Oskar von Miller, 7. Mai 1930, 75th Birthday, Text:
    DEM SCHÖPFER DES DEUTSCHEN MUSEUMS
    [Creator of the German Museum]
  12. Friedrich Schmidt-Ott, 4. Juni 1930, 70th Birthday, Text:
    DEM GROSSEN FÖRDERER / DER DEUTSCHEN WISSENSCHAFT
    [The Great Promoter of German Science]
  13. Theodor Lewald, 18. August 1930, 70th Birthday, Text:
    DEM VERDIENSTVOLLEN REICHSBEAMTEN / DEM FÜHRER DES DEUTSCHEN SPORTS
    [The Deserving German Official and Leader of German Sports]
  14. Georg Dehio, 22. November 1930, 80th Birthday, Text:
    DEM LEHRER UND GESCHICHTSSCHREIBER / DER DEUTSCHEN KUNST
    [Teacher and historical writer of German Arts]
  15. Robert Bosch, 23. September 1931, 70th Birthday, Text:
    DEM MANNE / RASTLOSER / ARBEIT UND / TÄTIGEN / ERFINDUNGSGEISTES
    [The restless worker and great inventor]
  16. Walter Simons, 24. September 1931, 70th Birthday, Text:
    DEM HOHEN RICHTER / DEM FÖRDERER / DES VÖLKERRECHTS
    [High Judge and promoter of International Law]
  17. Carl Duisberg, 25. September 1931, 70th Birthday, Text:
    DEM VERDIENSTVOLLEN FÖRDERER DEUTSCHER WIRTSCHAFT
    [The deserving promoter of the German Economy]
  18. Max Sering, 18. Januar 1932, 75th Birthday, Text:
    DEM FÜHRER DER AGRARWISSENSCHAFT /DEM KÜNDER UND FÖRDERER DEUTSCHEN BAUERNTUMS
    [The leader of Agrarian Science and promoter for German Pesantry]
  19. Ernst Brandes, 70th Birthday, 11. März 1932, Text:
    DEM FÜHRER DER / DEUTSCHEN LAND- / WIRTSCHAFT; DEM / HÜTER DER HEIMAT- / SCHOLLE
    [The Leader of the German Economy within the Homeland]

List of recipients of the Third Reich Eagle Shield

Where there are words included in capitals, these are the words which appear on the reverse of the Shield as the dedication below the recipients name. Apologies for the somewhat literal translation of the wording.

  1. Eduard Schwartz, 22 August 1933, Text:
    THE GREAT ANTIQUITY RESEARCHER
  2. Friedrich von Müller, 17 September 1933, Text:
    THE GREAT CLINICIAN

    eagleshield4

  3. Werner Koerte, 21 October 1933, Text:
    THE OUTSTANDING SURGEON
  4. William Doerpfeld, 26 December 1933, Text:
    THE OLD MASTER of the RESEARCH ANTIQUE ARCHITECTURE
  5. Hermann Stehr, 16 February 1934, Text:
    THE GERMAN POET
  6. Hugo Hergesell, 29 May 1934, Text:
    THE LEARNED RESEARCHER of the AIR LAYERS, THE PROMOTER of GERMAN AVIATION
  7. Richard Bunch, 11 June 1934, Text:
    THE CREATOR AND MASTER of GERMAN MUSIC
  8. Adolf Schmidt, 23 July 1934, Text:
    THE DESERVING PROMOTER AND SCHOLAR
  9. Theodor Wiegand, 30 October 1934, Text:
    THE WELL-RENOWNED GERMAN ARCHEOLOGIST

    eagleshield5

  10. Julius Friedrich Lehmann, 28 November 1934, Text:
    THE EARNED FIGHTER FOR the GERMAN NATIONALITY
  11. Heinrich Finke, 13 June 1935, Text:
    RESEARCHERS EARNED
  12. Ludwig Aschoff, 10 January 1936, Text:
    THE EARNED ONE/GERMAN RESEARCHER/And TEACHERS ON the AREA/the health/SCIENCE
  13. Gustav Tammann, 20 April 1936, Text:
    THE OLD MASTER/THE GERMAN/METALLURGY
  14. Ludolf von Krehl, 25 June 1936, Text:
    THE DESERVING ONE/RESEARCHER AND PHYSICIAN
  15. Erich Marcks, 17 November 1936, Text:
    THE LEARNED ONE/GERMAN HISTORICAL WRITER
  16. August Beer, 24 November 1936, Text:
    THE HIGH-EARNED/GERMAN SURGEON
  17. Vladimir Peter Koeppen, 28 March 1937, Text:
    THE OLD MASTER/THE GERMAN/METEOROLOGY
  18. Emil Kirdorf, 8 April 1937, Text:
    THE GREAT/GERMAN/ECONOMIC/LEADER
  19. Adolf Bartels, 1 May 1937, Text:
    THE GERMAN/VORKAEMPFER {?} FOR/FOLK/CULTURE RENEWAL
  20. Bernhard Nocht, 4 November 1937, Text:
    THE DESERVING ONE/RESEARCHER AND PHYSICIAN
  21. Alexander Koenig, 20 February 1938, Text:
    THE DESERVING ONE/RESEARCHER AND ZOOLOGIST
  22. Adalbert Czerny, 25 March 1938, Text:
    THE OLD MASTER/the GERMAN/CHILD MEDICINE
  23. Robert von Ostertag, 20 April 1939, Text:
    THE DESERVING ONE/RESEARCHER/ON THAT AREAS/ THE VETERINARY/SCIENCE
  24. Friedrich Karl, 14 May 1939, Text:
    THE DESERVING ONE/RESEARCHER AND/TROPICAL DOCTOR
  25. Albert Pietzsch, 28 June 1939, Text:
    THE LEADER/AND PROMOTERS/the GERMANS/ECONOMY
  26. Heinrich Sohnrey, 19 June 1939, Text:
    THE GUARDIAN/AND MALE NURSES/RECOVERING/THE PEASANTRY
  27. Julius Dorpmueller, 24 July 1939, Text:
    THE ERNEUERER [?]RENEWER/THE GERMAN/RAILWAYS
  28. Arthur Kampf, 28. September 1939, Text:
    THE GERMAN/PAINTER
  29. Karl Muck, 22. Oktober 1939, Text:
    THE GREAT/CONDUCTOR
  30. Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, 7. August 1940, Text:
    THE GERMAN/INDUSTRIAL LEADER
  31. Paul Kehr, 28. Dezember 1940, Text:
    THE PROTRUDING {?]/RESEARCHER/MEDIEVAL HISTORY
  32. Heinrich Schnee, 4. Februar 1941, Text:
    THE GERMAN/ COLONIAL- / PIONEER
  33. Albert Brackmann, 24. Juni 1941, Text:
    THE LEARNED ONE/RESEARCHER/GERMAN/HISTORY
  34. Gustav Bauer, 1. Oktober 1944, Text:
    THE GREAT/GERMAN SHIP MACHINE-BUILDER
  35. Hermann Röchling, 12. November 1942, Text:
    THE PIONEER/METALLURGICAL ENGINEERING / DEM VORKÄMPFER /OF THE SAAR
  36. Alfred Hugenberg, 3. März 1943, Text:
    THE PIONEER/OF THE GERMAN FILM INDUSTRY
  37. Ernst Rüdin, 19. April 1944, Text:
    THE PIONEER/the HUMANE ONE/HEREDITARY CARE [?]
  38. Paul Schultze-Naumburg, 10. Juni 1944, Text:
    THE GERMAN/BUILDING MASTER

As I have already mentioned above, the translation of the inscription is quite literal and some meanings and words do not easily work. And errors are therefore my responsibility. I would be interested to hear from anyone with additional information.


Footnote. It is also possible that there were two further recipients and I have received correspondence regarding this from the Deutsches Museum. The names of these ‘possibles’ are:

Erwin Guido Kolbenheyer – my research leads me to think he may have received it for his contributions to literature and drama. However, he does not fit the age criteria of the original award and was not on the lists I had seen previously. He received several other awards of this time period. One university biography lists him as receiving the following:

Goethemedaille 1932
Goethepreis der Stadt Frankfurt 1937
"Adlerschild" des Deutschen Reiches 1938 or possibly 1943
Kant-Plakette der Stadt Königsberg 1941
Grillparzer-Preis der Stadt Wien 1944
Josef-Hofmann-Plakette 1958

Wilhelm Kreis – Architect who was responsible for design of monuments and memorials for war dead, nominally under the direction of Speer but working for the German government. He also designed and built the main station in Meissen and the German Hygiene Museum in Dresden and planned the Gau Forum in Dresden, which was not built due to the outcome of the war. Possible recipient in 1942, unconfirmed.

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