POUR LE MERITE (BLUE MAX) WITH GOLD OAK LEAF THAT IS BELIEVED TO HAVE BEEN MADE IN THE EARLY 1920's AND PROBABLY USED AS AN AWARD BY THE FREIKORPS
Unlike the aftermath of World War II where draconian Allied de-nazification laws made it illegal to display a swastika in Germany, no such similar prohibitions were enforced by the Weimar Government FOLLOWING World War I on the wearing of awards previously issued by the House of Hohenzollern, the German Empire and/or any of the individual German states. Moreover, the Weimar Government took little or no interest in the creation or institution of any new awards, to include a national commemorative to honor the millions of Germans who served honorably in the war.
This unbelievably short sighted policy also included an effort to ignore pensions and other earned benefits for disabled veterans, which left an important vacuum that was filled during the turbulent 1919 to 1923 era by the re-issuing of commonly known and respected imperial era medals by the more than two hundred (200) para military organizations across the country that had come together, without government sponsorship or logistical support, to fight foreign incursions and domestic communist radicals. This army, which could field as many as five hundred thousand (500,000) members at its height, was commonly known as the "FREIKORPS".
Simultaneous with its defeat in 1919 of the Polish Army which had illegally invaded Silesia, as well as other successful actions in the Baltic region, it was also engaged in a brutal civil war with Communists all across Germany, to particularly include Prussia and Bavaria, in which both states the communists had declared the government overthrown and had established a soviet style people's government.
For valor in combat, the Freikorps, having no official sanction from the Weimar Government, which didn't have any medals of its own anyway, field commanders, such as General von Epp, simply continued to present imperial era decorations to their deserving troops which still retained all of the original imperial symbols, as well as being personalized or modified in some instances by the addition of engraving, a slip on metal sleeve over a ribbon or other similar home made designs.
In keeping with this practice, the pattern and construction characteristics of the Oak Leaf hanger accompanying this medal appear to be consistent with the post war 1919 period in all respects. While it is equally possible that this gold oak leaf was privately made during that period by a previous winner of the Blue Max, the distinction of the oak leaf design is more consistent with other modifications to imperial awards that were utilized by the Freikorps on an ad hoc basis.
Incidentally, it should be noted that it was very common practice for winners of the Order Pour le Merite (or "Blue Max" as it is more commonly known) to not wear their originally awarded medal, but rather alternatively wear a copy made by a private jeweler, so as to avoid losing it, and/or accidentally chipping or cracking its blue enamel surfaces. Most of these copies are known to have been unmarked as, for example, was the Blue Max being worn by Herman Goring when he surrendered to Allied forces in 1945 while his original BLUE MAX still sat in a Berlin bank's safe deposit box.
Whether this item is a Freikorps modified and awarded decoration or a private copy of the BLUE MAX made by a previous winner for wear during the early 1920's, it remains representative of a transitional period of German history where the political and social life of the nation were both at a very low point and required the extraordinary service of German veterans who, fighting at their own expense, and without benefit of any pensions, medical insurance or death payments from the Weimar leadership, still bleed to save that government from extinction by the Communists. In that context, this medal is very rare indeed.
Click here for more information and pictures POUR LE MERITE - BLUE MAX. If you have any questions please email