Ritterkreuz des Eisernes Kreuzes / Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Date Instituted:
September 1st, 1939
Awarded To:
Officers and men of all ranks within any branch of the Wehrmacht, Waffen-SS or the auxiliary service organizations.
Required Qualifications*:
In general:
  • The previous award of the EK1 or its Spange, and
  • Continued performance of outstanding actions of combat bravery above and beyond the call of duty.
    For the Luftwaffe:
  • The previous award of the EK1 or its Spange, and
  • Accumulation of (initially) 20 points total, 1 point for downing a single-engine aircraft, 2 points for a twin-engine aircraft and 3 points for a four-engine aircraft. All points were x2 at night. This total was continuously raised as the war went on.
    For the Kriegsmarine:
  • The previous award of the EK1 or its Spange, and
  • Accumulation of 100,000 tons sunk for Uboots, or
  • Continued performance of outstanding actions of combat bravery above and beyond the call of duty.

    *Criteria often changed throughout the war
  • First Awarded:
    September 30th, 1939
    Number Awarded: (Detailed list)
    7,318 to Germans, 43 to foreigners = 7,361 total
    Grades/Variations:
    During the time of the Third Reich, the range of categories of the Iron Cross were as follows:

    The Iron Cross
    The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
    The Grand Cross of the Iron Cross


    The various grades of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross specifically are discussed within seperate entries due to the great importance of each grade. The grades of the Knight's Cross were as follows:

    Knight's Cross
    Knight's Cross w. Oakleaves
    Knight's Cross w. Oakleave, Swords
    Knight's Cross w. Oakleaves, Swords, Diamonds
    K.Cross w. Golden Oakleaves, Swords, Diamonds

    Method of Wear:
    When awarded, the Knight's Cross was worn at the base of the neck on a black, white and red ribbon. Individual Knight's Cross holders were allowed to attempt various means to affix the RK for their comfort, using in some cases ties, clips, buttons and other such means to hold the RK in place. Whatever the case, the only place the RK was worn was around the neck itself. Some RK holders were known to use an EK2 in place of their RK while in dangerous situations, so that damage or loss would not occur. If in time a higher version of the RK was awarded, the highest grade would be worn and the lowere version removed.
    Notes:
    The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was a highly regarded award, being somewhat the equal of the American Medal of Honor. As well as being awarded for individual actions, the RK could also be awarded to a unit commander in recognition of the performance of his unit as a whole. The RK could also be awarded to foreigners, and 43 such awards were made during WWII. Of the 7,318 RK holders, approximately 1,000 are still alive as of 1999 and an unknown number were killed in action or are listed as missing in action during WWII, but approximately 2,500 (34%) are thought to have held this fate. The first Gefreiter (Corporal) to be awarded the RK was Hubert Brinkforth, awarded the RK on March 7th, 1941 as a member of the 14.PzJg-Kompanie/Inf.Reg.25. The three youngest men to be awarded the RK were Gefreiter Christian Lohrey, awarded the RK on March 11th, 1945 as a Kompanie-Trupp-Melder in 3./Pz.Gr.Reg.41, Oberfähnrich/Leutnant Hans Bretz, awarded the RK on May 6th, 1945 as a Zugführer in PzVernichtungs-Brigade Oberschlesien, and Gefreiter Manfred Kuhnert, awarded the RK on January 22nd, 1944 as a Richtschütze in 14.PzJg-Kompanie/Gr.Reg.442.
    Search 7276 Knights Cross Holders

    First Name:
    Last Name:


    The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross


    RK holder, Gerhard Grenzel


    Read more about the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross



    Detailed Distribution Statistics for this grade