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Iron Cross

The Iron Cross was established as a military honor by King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia in 1813 in the Napoleonic Wars. The new Order was designed by the neo-classical architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel. When the Goddess of Peace in her quadrigia was retrieved from Paris at Napoleon's fall the following year and re-established atop Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, an Iron Cross was substituted for her laurel wreath, making her into a goddess of Victory.

The Iron Cross was awarded again in 1870 in the Franco-Prussian War and then in 1914 in World War I.

Adolf Hitler again restored the award in 1939, instituting four grades: 2nd Class, 1st Class, Knights Cross to the Iron Cross, and Grand Cross to the Iron Cross. The award was for bravery in battle as well as other military contributions (e.g. planning). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to enlisted men for the first time. Awardees progressed through the award hierarchy to the top.

Since 1957, German law prohibits the wearing of an Iron Cross with a Swastika. Today's Luftwaffe uses a stylized Iron Cross as its symbol.

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