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The Iron Cross (German: About this sound Eisernes Kreuz (help·info)) was a military decoration of the Kingdom of Prussia, and later of Germany, which was established by King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia and first awarded on 10 March 1813 in Breslau. In addition to during the Napoleonic Wars, the Iron Cross was awarded during the Franco-German War, the First World War, and the Second World War. The Iron Cross was normally a military decoration only, though there were instances of it being awarded to civilians for performing military functions. Two examples, the civilian pilot Hanna Reitsch was awarded the Iron Cross First Class for her bravery as a test pilot during the Second World War and Melitta Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg (also a German female test pilot) was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class. The Iron Cross was also used as the symbol of the German Army from 1871 to 1915, when it was replaced by a simpler Greek cross. In 1956, the Iron Cross became the symbol of the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces. The traditional design is black and this design is used on armored vehicles and aircraft. A newer design in blue and silver is used as the emblem in other contexts.
Adolf Hitler restored the Iron Cross in 1939 as a German decoration (rather than Prussian as in earlier versions), continuing the tradition of issuing it in various grades. Legally it is based on the enactment (Reichsgesetzblatt I S. 1573) of 1 September 1939 Verordnung über die Erneuerung des Eisernen Kreuzes (Regulation for the Re-introduction of the Iron Cross). The Iron Cross of the Second World War was divided into three main series of decorations with an intermediate category, the Knight's Cross, instituted between the lowest, the Iron Cross, and the highest, the Grand Cross. The Knight's Cross replaced the Prussian Pour le Mérite or "Blue Max". Hitler did not care for the Pour le Mérite, as it was a Prussian order that could be awarded only to officers. The ribbon of the medal (2nd class and Knight's Cross) was different from the earlier Iron Crosses in that the color red was used in addition to the traditional black and white (black and white were the colours of Prussia, while black, white, and red were the colors of Germany). Hitler also created the War Merit Cross as a replacement for the non-combatant version of the Iron Cross. It also appeared on certain Nazi flags in the upper left corner. The edges were curved, like most original iron crosses.  Iron Cross World War II Iron Cross 2nd Class World War II Iron Cross 1st Class The standard 1939 Iron Cross was issued in the following two grades: * Iron Cross 2nd Class (Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse) * Iron Cross 1st Class (Eisernes Kreuz 1. Klasse) (abbreviated as EKI or E.K.I.)  The Iron Cross was awarded for bravery in battle as well as other military contributions in a battlefield environment. The Iron Cross 2nd Class came with a ribbon and was worn in one of two different methods: * When in formal dress, the entire cross was worn mounted alone or as part of a medal bar. * For everyday wear, only the ribbon was worn from the second hole in the tunic button. The Iron Cross First Class was a pin-on medal with no ribbon and was worn centered on a uniform breast pocket, either on dress uniforms or everyday outfit. It was a progressive award, with the second class having to be earned before the first class and so on for the higher degrees. It is estimated that some four and a half million Second Class Iron Crosses were awarded in the Second World War, and 300,000 of the First Class . Two Iron Cross First Class recipients were women, one of whom was test pilot Hanna Reitsch. The only Muslim to have ever received the award, SS Obersturmführer Imam Halim Malkoć, was granted the Iron Cross (Second Class) in October 1943 for his role in suppressing the Villefranche-de-Rouergue mutiny. Two Jewish officers of the Finnish army and one female Lotta Svärd member were awarded Iron Crosses, but they would not accept them.
The Maltese cross or Amalfi cross is identified as the symbol of an order of Christian warriors known as the Knights Hospitaller or Knights of Malta and through them came to be identified with the Mediterranean island of Malta and is one of the National symbols of Malta. The Maltese cross was depicted on the two mils coin in the old Maltese currency, and is now shown on the back of the one and two Euro coins, introduced in January 2008. The cross is eight-pointed and has the form of four "V"-shaped arms joined together at their tips, so that each arm has two points. Its design is based on crosses used since the First Crusade. It was also the symbol of Amalfi, a small Italian republic of the 11th century.
another symbol i've always been interested in is the swastica. just about anyone you cross will only be familiar with the nazi's usage.
but, did you know the symbol has a history with native americas?
The swastika (from Sanskrit svastika) is an equilateral cross with its arms bent at right angles, in either right-facing (卐) form or its mirrored left-facing (卍) form. Archaeological evidence of swastika-shaped ornaments dates from the Neolithic period. It occurs today in the modern day culture of India, sometimes as a geometrical motif and sometimes as a religious symbol; it remains widely used in Eastern and Dharmic religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
Despite this usage, the symbol has become stigmatized and to some extent taboo in the Western world because of its iconic usage by Nazi Germany, and it has notably been outlawed in Germany if used as a symbol of Nazism (usage of the sign by religious groups is tolerated). Many modern political extremists and Neo-Nazi groups such as Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging and Russian National Unity use stylised swastikas or similar symbols.
The ubiquity of the swastika symbol is easily explained by its being a very simple shape that will arise independently in any basket-weaving society. The swastika is a repeating design, created by the edges of the reeds in a square basket-weave. Other theories attempt to establish a connection via cultural diffusion or an explanation along the lines of Carl Jung's collective unconscious.
The genesis of the swastika symbol is often treated in conjunction with cross symbols in general, such as the "sun wheel" of Bronze Age religion.
Another explanation is suggested by Carl Sagan in his book Comet. Sagan reproduces an ancient Chinese manuscript (the Book of Silk) that shows comet tail varieties: most are variations on simple comet tails, but the last shows the comet nucleus with four bent arms extending from it, recalling a swastika. Sagan suggests that in antiquity a comet could have approached so close to Earth that the jets of gas streaming from it, bent by the comet's rotation, became visible, leading to the adoption of the swastika as a symbol across the world.
In Life's Other Secret, Ian Stewart suggests the ubiquitous swastika pattern arises when parallel waves of neural activity sweep across the visual cortex during states of altered consciousness, producing a swirling swastika-like image, due to the way quadrants in the field of vision are mapped to opposite areas in the brain.
Alexander Cunningham rejected any connection of the Indian swastika symbol with sun-worship, and suggested that the shape arose from a combination of Brahmi characters abbreviating the words su astí.
The swastika shape was used by some Native Americans. It has been found in excavations of Mississippian-era sites in the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys. It is frequently used as a motif on objects associated with the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex(S.E.C.C.). It was also widely used by many southwestern tribes, most notably the Navajo. Among various tribes, the swastika carried different meanings. To the Hopi it represented the wandering Hopi clan; to the Navajo it was one symbol for a whirling log (tsil no'oli'), a sacred image representing a legend that was used in healing rituals (after learning of the Nazi association, the Navajo discontinued use of the symbol). A brightly colored First Nations saddle featuring swastika designs is on display at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada. A swastika shape is a symbol in the culture of the Kuna people of Kuna Yala, Panama. In Kuna tradition, it symbolizes the octopus that created the world; its tentacles, pointing to the four cardinal points. In February, 1925, the Kuna revolted vigorously against Panamanian suppression of their culture, and assumed autonomy in 1930; the flag they adopted at that time is based on the swastika shape, and remains the official flag of Kuna Yala. A number of variations on the flag have been used over the years: red top and bottom bands instead of orange were previously used, and in 1942 a ring (representing the traditional Kuna nose-ring) was added to the center of the flag to distance it from the symbol of the Nazi party.