by Sebastián Bianchi
War Merit Medal (Kriegsverdienstmedaille) was introduced ten months after the War Merit Cross. Due to the initial frequency with which the War Merit Cross was being awarded, especially among civilians, an erosion of its prestige began to take place. Recognizing this, and wishing to stop it in its tracks, Hitler introduced this civilian decoration on August 19, 1940. Uniquely, while other awards such as the Iron Cross were being modified to include only higher grades, the War Merit Cross was expanded in both directions.
The War Merit Medal was a round bronzed medal that featured a War Merit Cross without swords on the obverse and the phrase “Fur Kriegsverdienst” (for war merit) on the reverse. It was held by the same ribbon as the 2nd Class, but with a thin red line in the center.
The Medal was to be a strictly civilian award. It was specially geared toward workers whose contributions, while important, were accomplished in mass. Of these achievements, the most prevalent was significantly exceeding work quotas, with the added bonus that a factory who had in its ranks a high number of War Merit Medal holders achieved "Outstanding War Factory Classification". They were then awarded the War Merit Cross 1st Class without swords in ceremonies with their share of flair, and were allowed to display a banner to this effect. This last creation was Albert Speer's, an idea that was welcomed by the Nazi leadership because it served well as an incentive, moral booster, and propaganda tool.
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