Pour le Mérite
The Pour le Mérite (for the merit), known informally as the Blue Max (German: Blauer Max), was the Kingdom of Prussia's highest order of merit. It was awarded strictly as a recognition of extraordinary personal achievement, rather than as a general marker of social status or a courtesy-honour, although certain restrictions of social class and military rank were applied. The award was given as both a military (1740-1918) and civil (1740-1810, after 1842 as a separate class) honour.
- 1 History
- 2 Notable recipients of the military order (small selection)
- 3 List of recipients of the Pour le Mérite for Sciences and Arts (small selection)
- 4 See also
- 5 External links
- 6 References
The award was founded in 1740 by Frederick the Great (German: Friedrich der Große); it was intended primarily as a military honour, but was also sometimes given for civil accomplishments. New awards of the military class ceased with the end of the German monarchy in November 1918.
A separate civil class of the Pour le Mérite, the Pour le mérite für Wissenschaften und Künste, was created in 1842 to honour accomplishments in the arts and sciences. This version of the order was revived as an independent organization in 1923, and again in 1952, with the President of Germany replacing the King of Prussia as head of the order. This version of the honour is still active.
The order is effectively secular, and membership endures for the remaining lifetime of the inductee, unless renounced or revoked.
Notable recipients of the military order (small selection)
German Kingdom of Prussia
- Peter III of Russia, who received the Pour le Mérite in 1762 when he withdrew Russia from the Seven Years' War and made peace with Prussia.
- Alexander Suvorov, Russian generalissimo
- Gebhard von Blücher, Napoleonic-era Prussian Generalfeldmarschall who led Prussian forces at the Battle of Waterloo
- Hermann von Boyen, Napoleonic-era Prussian general and Minister of War; simultaneously received the Pour le Mérite and the Oakleaves.
- August von Gneisenau, Napoleonic-era Prussian general (later Generalfeldmarschall); first decorated in 1807, received the oak leaves in 1814.
- Friedrich Wilhelm Freiherr von Bülow, Napoleonic-era Prussian general; also received the oak leaves.
- Karl Wilhelm Georg von Grolman, Napoleonic-era Prussian general; also received the oak leaves.
- Gerhard von Scharnhorst, Napoleonic-era Prussian general.
- Ludwig Graf Yorck von Wartenburg, Napoleonic-era Prussian general (later Generalfeldmarschall); also received the oak leaves.
- Christian Leopold von Buch, a German geologist and paleontologist.
- Helmuth Graf von Moltke, known as "Moltke the Elder"; first decorated in 1839 as a junior officer; he received the oak leaves in 1871 and the Grand Cross in March 1879. Also inducted into the civil class of the order in 1874.
- Leonhard Graf von Blumenthal, Prussian general (later Generalfeldmarschall) decorated with the Pour le Mérite in the 1864 German-Danish War and the Oakleaves in the 1866 Austro-Prussian War.
- Ernst von Pfuel, Prussian general and Prime Minister of Prussia.
- Otto von Bismarck, Prussian and German chancellor during the unification period; decorated in 1884 with the Pour le Mérite with oak leaves.
- Leo von Caprivi, Prussian general, decorated in 1871 for merit in the Franco-Prussian War.
- Friedrich Wilhelm von Lindeiner-Wildau, received the Pour le Mérite for the East Africa campaign of 1905-07.
World War I (airforce)
- Kurt Wintgens, the first military aviator to ever down an enemy aircraft with a synchronized machine gun (July 1915), earned his medal in July 1916 with as many as 22 total victories.
- Hermann Göring, decorated as an ace pilot in June 1918, later Reichsmarschall, head of the Luftwaffe, and Third Reich second in command.
- Manfred von Richthofen, better known as the "Red Baron," the top-scoring ace of World War I.
- Lothar von Richthofen, his brother.
- Ernst Udet, second-highest-scoring German ace of World War I.
- Werner Voss, fourth-highest-scoring German ace of World War I.
- Josef Jacobs, German flying ace with 48 victories.His total tied him with Werner Voss. ace of World War I.
- Bruno Loerzer, German flying ace with 44 victories.
- Gotthard Sachsenberg, German flying ace with 31 victories.
- Heinrich Kroll, German flying ace with 33 victories.
- Max Immelmann, with Oswald Boelcke, one of the first aviator recipients.
- Oswald Boelcke, with Max Immelmann, among the first aviator recipients.
- Rudolf Berthold, high-ranking German ace shot to death by German communists in 1920.
- Robert Ritter von Greim, World War I ace and World War II Generalfeldmarschall.
- Eduard Ritter von Schleich, better known as the "Black Knight", destroyed 35 enemy aircraft.
- Carl Menckhoff, fighter ace, with 39 confirmed victories.
- Ernst von Hoeppner, Commanding General of the Air Service.
- Theo Osterkamp, naval aviator and World War I ace; also scored six victories in World War II and became a Luftwaffe general.
World War I (army)
- Erwin Rommel, decorated as an Oberleutnant in December 1917, later a Generalfeldmarschall and commander of the German Afrika Korps in World War II.
- Paul von Hindenburg, German Generalfeldmarschall and later President of Germany; awarded the Pour le Mérite in September 1914 and the oak leaves in February 1915.
- Erich Ludendorff, German general of World War I; awarded the Pour le Mérite in August 1914, one of the earliest World War I awards, for the siege of Liege, Belgium; received the oak leaves in February 1915.
- Rupprecht, Crown Prince of Bavaria, German Generalfeldmarschall; awarded the Pour le Mérite in August 1915 and the oak leaves in December 1916.
- Albrecht, Duke of Württemberg, German Generalfeldmarschall; awarded the Pour le Mérite in August 1915 and the oak leaves in February 1918.
- Werner von Blomberg, decorated as a major in June 1918.
- Fedor von Bock, decorated as a major in April 1918.
- Erich von Falkenhayn, Chief of the German General Staff from 1914 to 1916; awarded the Pour le Mérite in February 1915 and the oak leaves in June 1915.
- Oskar von Hutier, German general awarded the Pour le Mérite in September 1917 and the oak leaves in March 1918.
- Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, who led German forces in the guerilla campaign in German East Africa.
- Otto Liman von Sanders, German general who served as adviser and commander of Ottoman forces in World War I; awarded the Pour le Mérite and the oak leaves simultaneously in January 1916 for his role in the Battle of Gallipoli.
- Friedrich "Fritz" Karl von Lossberg, World War I master-strategist; expert in the Defence in depth. Awarded 21 September 1916 (Somme); oak leaves on 24 April 1917 (Arras).
- August von Mackensen, German general (later Generalfeldmarschall) of World War I; awarded the Pour le Mérite in November 1914 and the oak leaves in June 1915.
- Helmuth Johann Ludwig von Moltke, Chief of the German General Staff at the outbreak of World War I. Nephew of Moltke the Elder.
- Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein, German officer in the Near East campaigns of World War I.
- Max Hoffmann, German staff officer; awarded the Pour le Mérite in October 1916 and the oak leaves in July 1917.
- Hans von Seeckt, German staff officer in World War I; awarded the Pour le Mérite in May 1915 and the oak leaves in November 1915.
- Ernst Jünger, Army Lieutenant and later novelist, the last living holder of the Pour le Mérite at the time of his death in 1998.
- Ferdinand Schörner, decorated as a Leutnant in December 1917, later a Generalfeldmarschall in World War II.
- Alfred von Tirpitz, German Grand Admiral, decorated in August 1915.
- Reinhard Scheer (de), German admiral and commander of German naval forces in the Battle of Jutland.
- Franz von Hipper (de), German admiral.
- Nikolaus Burggraf und Graf zu Dohna-Schlodien, German auxiliary cruiser commander; one of only two junior officers to receive the highest military honors of the five main German states.
- Karl August Nerger, German auxiliary cruiser commander; one of only two junior officers to receive the highest military honors of the five main German states.
- Karl Friedrich Max von Müller, captain of the famous German commerce raider, the light cruiser Emden during the first few months of World War I.
- Lothar von Arnauld de la Perière, German U-boat commander during the First World War, awarded the Pour le Mérite in the autumn of 1916 for sinking 200,000 tonnes of Allied shipping.
- Walther Schwieger, German U-boat commander who sank the British liner RMS Lusitania.
- Otto Weddigen, German U-boat commander of World War I.
- Friedrich Christiansen (de), decorated as Naval Pilot Oberleutnant on 11 December 1917.
Recipients of both classes
Only a small number (the number of recipients is normally given with three to five) of persons have received both the military and civil classes of the Pour le Mérite:
- Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, military class 1839, civil class 1874
- Otto von Bismarck, military class 1884, civil class 1896
- Hermann von Kuhl, military class 1916, civil class 1924
List of recipients of the Pour le Mérite for Sciences and Arts (small selection)
|Date of award||Name||Description||Residence|
|1860||Louis Agassiz||Naturalist||New Cambridge near Boston|
|1874||Helmuth von Moltke the Elder||War researcher||Berlin|
|1874||Heinrich von Sybel||Historian||Bonn|
|1874||Friedrich Max Müller||Orientalist||Oxford|
|1887||Heinrich von Treitschke||Historian||Berlin|
|1887||Giuseppe Fortunio Francesco Verdi||Composer||Sant'Agata|
|1896||Otto von Bismarck||Statesman||Berlin|
|1910||Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin||Aeronaut||Friedrichshafen|
|1911||Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz||Military theorist||Berlin|
|November 1918||Ceased with the end of the Prussian monarchy|
|1919–1922||No award made|
|1923||Revived with the Reichspräsident as head of the order|
|1933||Absorbed into the state honours system of National Socialist Germany|
|1946–1952||No award made|
|1952||Revived with West German Bundespräsident Theodor Heuss as head of the order|
|1955||Thomas Mann||Writer||Kilchberg near Zürich, Switzerland|
- Knight of the Order "Pour le Mérite" with the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (in German)
- Pour le Mérite for Sciences and Arts (official German list)
- Müller, Wilhelm (2013). Politische Geschichte der Gegenwart: 18. Das Jahr 1884 (in de). Heidelberg: Springer Verlag, 93. ISBN 978-3-642-99180-6.
- Orden Pour le Mérite für Wissenschaften und Künste (1978). Die Mitglieder des Ordens 1882–1952 (in de). Berlin: Gebr. Mann Verlag, 116. ISBN 978-3-7861-1125-2.
- Meier-Welcker, Hans (1982) (in German). "Kuhl, Hermann von ". In Neue Deutsche Biographie (NDB). 13. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot. pp. 251 et seq.