Wound Badge

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Different German wounded badges in comparison; it is of simple design with a Stahlhelm framed by a laurel wreath in front of crossed swords, a symbol of protection and security. In 1939, the Hakenkreuz was added and, as of the 2nd model, the Stahlhelm updated.
Over the course of 1917, considerations became more concrete within the German Army that war-disabled soldiers should receive a kind of “wounded badge”. The corresponding graphic sketch of such a decoration was already available to the War Ministry – submitted by an assault grenadier (Sturmgrenadier) from the Western Front. Its design, modeled after the Prussian Pilot's Badge (Militär-Flugzeugführer-Abzeichen), was broadly similar to the later officially awarded form, although with an imperial crown (Reichskrone) and other minor variations. The badge offered shown here, with a height of 72 mm and a width of 45 mm, corresponds to the dimensions mentioned and shows a stylized Stahlhelm with crossed swords in front of a ray-shaped background within a divided laurel and oak leaf wreath. The laurel and oak leaf wreaths are connected with a bow at the bottom. The imperial crown sits at the head end. The back of the badge is smooth and shows a vertically soldered brooch pin.

The Wound Badge (German: Verwundetenabzeichen) is a military decoration initially awarded to recognize the sacrifice of wounded or frostbitten soldiers of the Imperial German Army during World War I and first promulgated by Kaiser Wilhelm II on 3 March 1918 in three classes (a special badge for the Kaiserliche Marine was established on 24 June 1918). With a decree of 11 March 1918, it was adopted for the Bavarian Army and expanded to the the Schutztruppe of the German colonies by AKO on 8 July 1918. For Württemberg and Saxony the adoption took place informally.

Similar badges were also donated in other countries, for example in Austria (Wound Medal, established on 12 August 1917), Italy and Great Britain.The USA, awarding the Army Wound Ribbon as of 6 September 1917, although rescinded on 12 January 1918, and replaced it with the Wound Chevron, reestablished the Purple Heart long after WWI, the first being awarded on 22 February 1932.

Many German soldiers had criticized post-war the belated introduction of the badge for the wounded. Hitler, who had been wounded in WWI, therefore not only established a badge for wounded of the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War, but also for the first wounded soldiers of the Poland Campaign, signing the order on 1 September 1939.

The Wound Badge was worn as a pin badge on the left side of the chest on and off duty with all uniforms. It was to be attached to the tunic below the decorations for valor in war (e.g. Iron Cross, 1st Class), but, above the NSDAP decorations and the various recognized sports badges (Deutsches Reichssportabzeichen), riding badges (Deutsches Reiterabzeichen) and so on. It could also be worn with all party and state uniforms. A smaller version (16 mm pin) of the wounded badge could be worn on the left lapel of a coat as part of civilian clothing.

Classes and award numbers

Adolf Hitler with his Wound Badge in Black
  • 3. Black (German: Schwarz; representing Iron), for those wounded once or twice by hostile action (including air raids in WWII)
  • 2. Matte White / Silver (German: Mattweiß, as of 1 September 1939 Silber) for being wounded three or four times
  • 1. Matte Yellow / Gold (German: Mattgelb, as of 1939 Gold) for five or more times wounded; could be awarded posthumously

As of 30 January 1936, the higher levels could also be applied for in the case of particularly serious injuries such as the loss of limbs (amputation) or eyesight (lossing at least one eye) since August 1914. A practice that was retained during World War II. Of the original version from 1918, there are also specimens with openwork or pierced pattern (durchbrochen), these are generally exemplars procured at private expense.[1]


Ernst Röhm with his Wound Badge in Matte White, although above his Iron Cross and therefore against the regulations.

By the end of 1936, after the last applications had been processed, 442,669 veterans had applied for wounded badges. Those who had been wounded three or four times were eligible to apply for the second, silver-colored level, regardless of the degree of injury. The care of war invalids was initially regulated according to their rank during the war and, from 1920, according to the degree of their disability in the Severely Disabled Persons Act. Wearing the wounded badge did not provide any real benefits; like other awards, it had a symbolic function: it made visible mutilations recognizable as “victims for the war” and also represented an appeal to fellow folk people.

With the global economic crisis and the increasing impoverishment of large parts of the German population, especially the war disabled and other recipients of state benefits, social recognition of the disabled quickly declined. As distance from the war increased, public opinion shifted towards the idea that veterans should make more effort to get into civil society instead of asking for (government) handouts. This way of thinking can already be found in the Severely Disabled Persons Act of 1920, which mainly promoted remedial and reintegration measures into the world of work. War-disabled soldiers should therefore finance themselves again as quickly as possible. Those who did not succeed in this or were denied it, such as those with facial injuries who found it particularly difficult to find work, due to their mutilation being difficult to hide, found themselves particularly quickly on the fringes of society. To this day, one of the most famous photos of the 1920s is of a German war veteran begging on the side of the road with an Iron Cross and a Wound Badge.


The exact number of awards can no longer be precisely determined due to the confusing and sometimes contradictory award practice. The relevant literature on this topic assumes up to 4 million awards (of all classes), just for members of the Wehrmacht. However, this number seems unrealistic. The Wounded Badge (1939) itself was a mass award of the German Wehrmacht, Waffen-SS and Order Police (Ordnungspolizei). If one references the total personnel strength of the Wehrmacht from 1939 to 1945 as around 19 million as a basis, with the majority of these soldiers sustaining one or more injuries during the course of the war, then the award number for all classes is around 10 million within the Wehrmacht units. However, this number is to be regarded as inaccurate, as members of the Reichsbahn, Reichsarbeitsdienst, HJ members as Luftwaffenhelfer, volunteer nurses and HJ members in the Volkssturm were also included in the award conditions. The Wound Badge was also awarded to an unknown number of civilians on the home front, as from March 1943, also retroactively, civilians who were wounded in Allied terror bombing received the decoration. There are also an unknown number of awards to foreign soldiers and various auxiliary troops. The total number of awards for all classes is estimated to have been around 12 to 15 million.



On 3 March 1918, Kaiser Wilhelm II donated a wounded badge as an award for wounded members of the German Army (including pilots, airships and balloon troops) in the World War. Since 8 July of the same year it could also be awarded to members of the colonial troops in the German colonies. The award regulations stated, among other things:

“I want to award a badge as a special recognition to those wounded in the service of the fatherland. The badge is intended to honor those who have bled for the fatherland or who have lost their health in the war zone due to enemy action and are therefore unfit for service.”

On 24 June 1918, Wilhelm II donated a similar naval wounded badge for members of the Imperial German Navy, which differed externally in the depicted motif (with anchor and anchor chain). The same three classe (black, matt white and matt yellow) were assigned here too. The award was only given when wounded in naval battles. During the Second World War, recipients of the naval award who suffered another wound while serving in the Heer or Luftwaffe from 1939 onwards were ordered to exchange it for the Wound Badge (1939).


Wounds in Freikorps operations against revolutionaries from 1918 to 1920 (including service in the border protection army of the east Grenzschutz Ost) as well as in border guard battles (Carinthia 1918/19, Silesia 1918–21) could be taken into account when determining the respective class.

Spanish Civil War

Wound Badge for memebers of the Condor Legion in Matte White (silver tarnished)

With a decree from the Führer and Reich Chancellor of 22 May 1939, a "Wound Badge for German Volunteers in the Spanish Fight for Freedom" (German: Verwundeten-Abzeichen für deutsche Freiwillige im spanischen Freiheitskampf) was established. It was worn as a badge of honor on the left breast, below the Iron Cross, 1st Class when present.

The legal status of the Wound Badge for the volunteers in Spain is that of a badge of honor (Ehrenzeichen) – donated and awarded as such. In a communication from the Minister of State and Head of the Presidential Chancellery of the Führer and Reich Chancellor dated 25 April 1941, it was agreed that the World War Wound Badge (1918) would also be recognized and treated as a badge of honor.

Although this wound badge (1st model) was only available in two classes, black and matt white, gold-plated versions were also supplied by various manufacturers. These gold wound badges were not awarded, but were used during and after the Polish Campaign (including the Operation Weserübung in 1940) because the Wound Badge (2nd model), which had since been established, was not yet available in sufficient quantities. A total of 182 black and 1 matt white (silver) badges were awarded to members of the Condor Legion.

Ordinance of 22 May 1939

Fighter ace Helmut Lent with Wound Badge in Silver
Max Hansen with Wound Badge in Gold

The ordinance (Verordnung) of 22 May 1939 has the following wording:

  • § 1: As an honorary commemorative badge for those German volunteers who were wounded by enemy ordnance during the defeat of Bolshevism in the Spanish struggle for freedom in 1936/1939 as members of the Condor Legion or in connection with their deployment and as members of the Kriegsmarine who were involved in combat operations in Spanish waters or were damaged, I donate a wound badge.
  • § 2: The Wound Badge is the same as that of the World War, decorated with a pointed swastika on the steel helmet.
  • § 3: The Wound Badge is awarded either in black or silver depending on the number of wounds (damage).
  • § 4: The Wound Badge is worn on the left side of the chest.
The head of the Wehrmacht High Command issues the implementing regulations.

Implementing regulations

The implementing regulations of the Wehrmacht High Command of 17 August 1939 are reproduced here in excerpt:

  • 1. The following are excluded from the award: illnesses and accidents, even if they occur in front of the enemy – but without the influence of enemy ordnance.
  • 2. The Wound Badge is awarded in black when wounded or damaged once or twice, and matt white when wounded or damaged three or more times.
Multiple wounds sustained by a projectile count as one wound.


Wound Badge, 2nd model with updated Stahlhelm
German Wound Badges by William E. Hamelman, Matthaeus Publishers, Dallas, TX, c. 1990.jpg
German Wound Badges in World War II.jpeg

The full wording of the foundation decree from the Reich Law Gazette (RGBl. 1939, Part I, p. 1577 f. of 3 September 1939) is as follows:

As a tribute to those who were wounded or damaged by enemy weapons during their valiant service for the fatherland, I am donating the Wounded Badge.
  • Article 1
    • (1) The Wound Badge is awarded in three grades: in black for one or two times, in silver for three and four times, and in gold for more than four times being wounded or damaged.
    • (2) Previous wounds for which a wounded badge has already been awarded will be taken into account for the award.
  • Article 2
    • The Wound Badge is the same as that of the army in the World War. The steel helmet has a swastika on the top.
  • Article 3
    • The Wound Badge is worn on the left side of the chest.
  • Article 4
  • I entrust the head of the High Command of the Wehrmacht, in conjunction with the head of the Presidential Chancellery of the Führer and Reich Chancellor, with the implementation of the ordinance.
Berlin, 1 September 1939
The Führer Adolf Hitler
The head of the Wehrmacht High Command Keitel
The Reich Minister of the Interior Frick
The Minister of State and Head of the Presidential Chancellery of the Führer and Reich Chancellor Dr. Meissner

Award conditions:

  • 1. The requirements for an award do not apply in the event of illness or accidents, even if these occur in front of the enemy – but without the influence of enemy ordnance.
  • 2. Multiple wounds sustained at the same time count as one wound.
  • 3.
    • The silver badge may be awarded regardless of the number of wounds if the wound resulted in the loss of a hand or a foot or an eye, or if it resulted in total deafness or hearing loss bordering on deafness. It can also be awarded to those with brain injuries and to those war-damaged who have suffered repugnant facial disfigurements.
    • The gold badge may be awarded regardless of the number of wounds if injured persons have several of the characteristics listed in the previous paragraph as a result of one or more wounds. It can also be awarded to injured people who are blind or brain-injured as a result of combat ordnance and who receive care allowance.
  • 4. Only the most recently awarded grade of the Wound Badge may be worn. (The World War [I] Wounded Badge and the Wounded Badge for Spanish Fighters must therefore be removed when awarded newly).

The awarding of the Wound Badge in practice, i.e. on the battlefield or in the rear army areas, things usually went smoothly. From 1940 onwards, the respective army high commands had sufficient quantities of the badges in stock and were delivered in boxes by the Presidential Chancellery of the Order to the fronts, but also to hospitals and various medical facilities. The recipient received a certificate of award with the badge and a corresponding entry in the Soldbuch. A previously awarded Wound Badge of a lower level remained in his possession.

Extended award conditions:

In the following months and years, the high commands of the Wehrmacht, the Army and the Navy issued several additional award conditions, some of which were contradictory, in order to honor those soldiers and ultimately civilians who had not been covered by the previous award conditions. Unless otherwise stated, these are written announcements from the Army Ordinance Gazette or the General Army Notices. According to their full wording, these were (here excerpts):

11 October 1939

Awards to members of the SS and police units deployed in the operational area and subordinate to the army by the disciplinary superiors of the SS and police subordinate to the Wehrmacht with the rank of battalion commander and higher.

27 October 1939

The same applies to wounds caused by enemy weapons: injuries or damage that occurred in connection with a combat operation through no fault of one's own ordnance.

27 April 1940

The requirements for awarding the wounded badge are also met for members of the Todt organization and the Reich Labor Service who were deployed to build the West Wall, provided that the wound or damage was caused by enemy weapons.

21 May 1940

The requirements for awarding the Wound Badge are also met for the members of the fortress pioneer and intelligence staff deployed to build the West Wall, including business workers, provided they have been wounded or damaged by enemy weapons.

6 June 1940

The requirements for the award of the Wound Badge are also met for the member of the Technical Emergency Aid deployed to expand the West Wall if there is an injury or damage caused by enemy weapons.

30 August 1940

There are no concerns about awarding the Wound Badge to members of the Deutsche Reichsbahn if the conditions for awarding it are met.

23 December 1940

The Führer and Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht has stated that in the case of blindness suffered in the performance of service in the Wehrmacht during the war, the requirements for the award of the gold Wound Badge can be considered fulfilled, even if the blindness occurred in accidents without the influence of enemy ordnance.

13 February 1941

The Wound Badge can only be awarded to the wounded or injured if the wound or injury was caused by the direct impact of enemy ordnance. If the wound or injury was caused by the indirect impact of enemy ordnance, such as when extinguishing a fire caused by a bomb attack, the award of the badge is not justified.

26 March 1941

The leader and supreme commander of the Wehrmacht has decided that the Wound Badge should only be awarded to blind people in the event of an accident. The badge cannot be awarded to other injured people who are injured in accidents without the influence of enemy ordnance.

26 September 1941

The Wound Badge can be awarded to foreign volunteers who are sworn to the Führer and fighting as part of or in units of the German Wehrmacht during operations against the Soviet Union. It is not permitted to award the badge to members of allied or friendly countries, as some of these countries have their own wounded badges. If this is not the case, the establishment of their own wound badge remains a matter for these countries.

10 October 1941

The handing out of war awards and wounded badges to those entrusted must be carried out in a dignified manner by a superior.

24 January 1942

The Führer has determined the duration of the combat operations in the theater of war in the East, so that the requirements for the award of the badge are to be considered fulfilled if serious and permanent damage to the body (primarily amputations) occurs as a result of frostbite in connection with combat operations.

20 April 1942

The Wound Badge can also be awarded to members of the police under the following conditions:

  • 1. To members of the police units deployed in the operational area and subordinate to the Wehrmacht.
  • 2. To members of police units that are not subordinate to the Wehrmacht, provided that they have been used in combat as soldiers in the context of military actions.
  • 3. To individual members of the security police and the SD, during this war, if the wound occurred during operations in non-pacified areas.

3 November 1942

The awarding of the Wound Badge to German soldiers as Wehrmacht prisoners in the penal system, especially in field prisoner departments, ... as well as to members of special field battalions is permitted provided that the generally applicable regulations are observed.

11 March 1943

On the occasion of the increasing air raids, the Führer ordered that, with retroactive effect, all German men, women and children who were wounded by enemy action in the home war zone would be treated in the same way as the soldiers deployed in the actual war zone with regard to the awarding of the Wound Badge.

25 May 1943

During the lecture, the Führer decided that the Wound Badge can also be awarded to non-military personnel who have been wounded by enemy weapons in the occupied areas as well as in the General Government and Protectorate.

15 December 1943

A small excerpt from the extensive implementing regulations, such as the concept of the person's brave commitment, is to be regarded as present wherever an obvious lack of probation – for example through cowardly behavior – is determined.

3 March 1944

The Wound Badge can be awarded to Italian volunteers and volunteer soldiers who are sworn to the Führer and who are deployed in German units.

16 October 1944

The commanders who are authorized to award the Iron Cross and the Wounded Badge to soldiers are authorized to award the Iron Cross and the Wounded Badge to members of the Reich Labor Service and other organizations under their command during deployment if there is particular bravery.

24 September 1944

To wounded volunteers from the East (Hiwis) who are admitted to German or state-owned medical facilities, the Wound Badge is to be awarded by the chief doctors according to the same guidelines and in the same form as to German wounded.

Wound Badge 20 July 1944 (Verwundetenabzeichen 20 Juli 1944).jpg

Wound Badge "20 July 1944"

The Wound Badge "20 July 1944" (German: Verwundeten-Abzeichen „20. Juli 1944“) was only issued to those wounded during the failed attempt on Adolf Hitler's life at the Wolf's Lair headquarters (Führerhauptquartier) in Rastenburg, East Prussia. Twenty-four men were present when the bomb detonated; one officer was killed and three succumbed to their wounds a short time later. Thereafter, Hitler ordered a special wound badge be awarded commemorating the event, as he believed "fate had intervened" for him.

The 20 July Wound Badge is based on the common Wound Badge, but the helmet is slightly higher and larger; it also bears the date "20 Juli 1944" and a facsimile of Hitler's signature below the helmet and date.[10] The 20 July Wound Badges were also awarded at three grades; black, silver, and gold. Recipients who held regulation Wound Badges were awarded the 20 July Wound Badge in a higher grade.[11] All of these wound badges were made out of solid hallmarked silver by the C. E. Juncker firm.

Unlike the Wound Badge in Black, the 20 July Wound Badge in Black was not all black. Only the helmet and wreath were black; the background was in silver so that the date and facsimile signature could be seen. The 20 July Wound Badge in silver has black highlights on the helmet swastika, the date, and the facsimile signature. The 20 July Wound Badge in gold had a silver background with the helmet and wreath colored gold. Unlike the standard Wound Badges, these were of two-piece construction.

Hitler presented the survivors with the special wound badge as well as a unique award document. The first were awarded in a ceremony on 20 August 1944. The four posthumous awards were sent to the recipients' wives. Although Hitler had been wounded in the bombing, he did not give one of these badges to himself. Hitler had earned his own Wound Badge (in black) in World War I on 18 May 1918.

The badge replaced the basic 1939 Wound Badge on those persons who were presented the 20 July Badge. It is important to note that this badge was more a personal commemoration decoration from Hitler to those involved. Recipients of the 20 July wound badge could have their 20 July wound badges upgraded if they earned higher grades of the Wound Badge. Konteradmiral Hans-Erich Voß eventually had the 20 July Wound Badge in all three grades, earning it in black on 20 July 1944, and having it upgraded twice for subsequent wounds.


  • The Wound Badge in black was silver with black highlights (helmet, laurel wreath, date, and Hitler's signature).
  • The Wound Badge in silver was all silver except for black highlights (helmet, swastika, date, and Hitler's signature).
  • The Wound Badge in gold was silver with gold highlights (helmet, laurel wreath, date, and Hitler's signature).
  • The Wound Badge in gold for those killed was completely gold-colored.

These wound badges were of two-piece construction so that the silver background could contrast with the highlights.

Legal situation (post-war)

Just as after the First World War, permission to wear the Wound Badge could also be applied for after 1945 in accordance with Section 13 of the Ordinance on Proof of Ownership of Medals and Decorations and Proof of Wounds and Damage. The prerequisite is proof of war-related injuries or damage in accordance with the provisions on war victim care. According to the law on titles, medals and decorations of 26 July 1957, the award may only be worn without a swastika. Excluded from this are the Wound Badge for German Volunteers in the Spanish Fight for Freedom and the Wound Badge "20 July 1944", neither of which may be worn in any form in Germany.

Compared to other war awards of the Second World War, the Wound Badge has a special status in that since the new medal law came into force it can also be worn in the "BMI form" by those who were not awarded it but who meet the award conditions. However, this group of people also requires proof of eligibility, which is issued by the responsible authority if an injury or damage has been proven that would have led to the award of the badge.

External links


  1. Dietmar Hinze: Das preußische Verwundetenabzeichen von 1918. Anmerkungen zu seiner Stiftung vor 100 Jahren. In: "Orden und Ehrenzeichen. Das Magazin für Freude der Phaleristik", Issue 114, April 2018, pp. 62–80