The Gesetz über Titel, Orden und Ehrenzeichen (literally "Law regarding Titles, Medals and Decorations"), often shortened to Ordensgesetz (literally "Medal Law"), is a federal law of Germany detailing the treatment and handling procedures for civilian and military decorations. The law was put into effect on July 26, 1957 and fulfilled two primary purposes. First, it stipulated how medals and military decorations from before 1945 should be handled (including those from the days of the Weimar Republic, which had been influenced by laws in 1933 and 1937 under the government of Nazi Germany). Second, it was intended to describe treatment and procedures for medals in the (then newly created) Federal Republic of Germany.
In general the law elucidates the following conventions:
- The German federal government and state governments can confer titles, medals and military decorations (hereafter referred to simply as medals).
- The President of Germany can personally create or officially recognize existing medals such as from civil service or sports (the law specifically mentions the Olympic Games, both the 1936 Winter Games and Summer Games had been held in Germany).
- Convicted criminals' medals can be revoked.
- German citizens may only assume foreign medals through the expressed consent of the President of Germany.
- Medals or titles may only be borne by the specific person who received them; insignias or emblems generally remain the property of the beneficiaries.
- Wearing medals with Nazi symbols or wearing medals without being the entitled person will be considered a breach of the law and punished with a fine.
The original law also committed the German federal government to pay out the Ehrensold (literally "honorary soldier's pay", a type of pension or honorarium) included in certain awards from World War I and before. On February 19, 2006 this portion of the law was nullified.
Previously Conferred Medals
The law outlines numerous stipulations and rulings on regulations for previously conferred medals and military decorations. In practice the law conforms to German criminal code, particularly § 86a, which forbids distribution or public display of Nazi symbolism without historical or academic cause.
Awards from before the Nazi's rise to power in 1933 may be worn so long as they are only worn in their original form. Along with other circumstantial stipulations, medals from 1933 to 1945 may only be worn if National Socialist symbols are removed (swastikas, SS runes, etc.). Medals awarded to members of civil services (e.g. fire departments or search and rescue crews) have no further limitations. Military commendations conferred by a previously allied state may only be worn through expressed consent, regardless the time they were awarded.
Medals specifically permitted for display by the law include:
- The Iron Cross (and its varying grades)
- The Silesian Eagle (an award from the Weimar Republic for the Freikorps)
- The Baltenkreuz (an award from the Weimar Republic for combat in the Baltic states)
- The Wound Badge
- The Luftschutzabzeichen (air defense badge)
- The Panzer Badge
- The Infantry Assault Badge
- The Close Combat Clasp
- The General Assault Badge
Section 6 paragraph 2 specifically reiterates that medals with National Socialist emblems may not be worn. They may not be produced, offered, inventoried, sold or used in commerce in any form. Accompanying the law, the German Ministry of the Interior released a supplement depicting the altered forms of awards from the period covered by 1934 to 1945.
Order of precedence
Section 12 of the law enumerates the order of precedence for medals worn by soldiers. Medals are worn on the left upper breast with the following precedence from right to left:
- Verdienstorden (Federal Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany)
- Rettungsmedaille am Bande (originally a Prussian award for saving the life of another soldier)
- Eisernes Kreuz 1914 (Iron cross awarded during the First World War)
- Eisernes Kreuz 1939 (Iron cross awarded during the Second World War)
- Other medals awarded for service in the First World War in the order of their conferment
- Ehrenkreuz (Cross of Honor from 1934 awarded for participating in the First World War)
- Kriegsverdienstkreuz 1939 (War Merit Cross, a civilian analogue to the Iron Cross occasionally issued to military personnel)
- Other medals awarded for service in the Second World War in the order of their conferment
- Further German awards in the order of their conferment
- Officially authorized awards in the order of their conferment
- Foreign awards in the order of their respective precedence
- Military decorations of the Third Reich
- Strafgesetzbuch § 86a
-  Full text of the Ordensgesetz [In German]
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