Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany

Last updated
Order of Merit of the
Federal Republic of Germany
German order merit with special sash.jpg
Special Class of the Grand Cross
(reserved for heads of state)
Type Order of merit with one special and eight regular classes
Country Federal Republic of Germany
Presented bythe President of Germany
EligibilityCivilian and military personnel
Established7 September 1951 (7 September 1951)
Total260,429 (as of January 10, 2021) [1]
Website bundespraesident.de
GER Bundesverdienstkreuz 9 Sond des Grosskreuzes.svg
Grand Cross Special Class

GER Bundesverdienstkreuz 8 Grosskreuz bes Ausf.svg
Grand Cross 1st Class, Special Issue
GER Bundesverdienstkreuz 7 Grosskreuz.svg
Grand Cross 1st Class
GER Bundesverdienstkreuz 6 GrVK Stern Band.svg
Grand Cross
GER Bundesverdienstkreuz 5 GrVK Stern.svg
Knight Commander
GER Bundesverdienstkreuz 4 GrVK.svg
GER Bundesverdienstkreuz 3 BVK 1Kl.svg
GER Bundesverdienstkreuz 2 BVK.svg


GER Bundesverdienstkreuz 1 BVM.svg
Ribbon bars of the Order of Merit

The Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (German : Verdienstorden der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, or Bundesverdienstorden, BVO) [2] is the only federal decoration of Germany. It is awarded for special achievements in political, economic, cultural, intellectual or honorary fields. It was created by the first President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Theodor Heuss, on 7 September 1951. Colloquially, the decorations of the different classes of the Order are also known as the Federal Cross of Merit (Bundesverdienstkreuz).

It has been awarded to over 200,000 individuals in total, both Germans and foreigners. Since the 1990s, the number of annual awards has declined from over 4,000, first to around 2,300–2,500 per year, and now under 2,000, with a low of 1752 in 2011. Since 2013, women have made up a steady 30–35% of recipients. [3]

Most of the German federal states (Länder) have each their own order of merit as well, with the exception of the Free and Hanseatic Cities of Bremen and Hamburg, which reject any orders (by old tradition their citizens, particularly former or present senators, will refuse any decoration in the form of an order, the most famous example being former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt). [4]


The order was established on 7 September 1951 by the decree of Federal President Theodor Heuss. [5] Signed by Heuss, German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, and Minister of the Interior Robert Lehr, the decree states:

Desiring to visibly express recognition and gratitude to deserving men and women of the German people and of foreign countries, on the second anniversary of the Federal Republic of Germany, I establish the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. It is awarded for achievements that served the rebuilding of the country in the fields of political, socio-economic, and intellectual activity, and is intended to be an award for all those whose work contributes to the peaceful rise of the Federal Republic of Germany.

In 2022 Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier introduced a gender quota which demands a minimum of 40% of nominees to the order to be women.


The Order comprises four groups with eight regular classes and one special (medal) class (hereafter enumerated in English): [6]

The President of the Federal Republic holds the Grand Cross special class ex officio. It is awarded to him in a ceremony by the President of the Bundestag, attended by the Chancellor of Germany, the President of the Bundesrat, and the Supreme Court President. Other than the German president, only a foreign head of state and their spouse can be awarded with this highest class. There is also the provision of awarding the Grand Cross 1st class in a "special issue" with laurel wreath design (Großkreuz in besonderer Ausführung), in which the central medallion with the black eagle is surrounded by a stylized laurel wreath in relief. This Grand Cross 1st class, special issue has been awarded so far only twice, to former German chancellors Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl. [7]


Comparison showing the similarities and same basic design of the various stars of the Bundesverdienstkreuz and the Prussian Order of the Black Eagle, The Third Reich Order of the German Eagle, The Third Reich Red Cross of Honour and the Prussian Pour le Merite. Comparison of Bundesverdienstkreuz stars.png
Comparison showing the similarities and same basic design of the various stars of the Bundesverdienstkreuz and the Prussian Order of the Black Eagle, The Third Reich Order of the German Eagle, The Third Reich Red Cross of Honour and the Prussian Pour le Mérite.

Except for the lowest class, the medal, the badge is the same for all classes, but with slightly different versions for men and women (slightly smaller badge and ribbon for women):

The badge for the Member and Officer classes however are only enamelled on one side, and flat on the reverse. The badge of the Order is made up of a golden four-armed cross enamelled in red, with a central gold disc bearing a black enamelled German federal eagle (Bundesadler).

The star is a golden star with straight rays, its size and points vary according to class, with the badge superimposed upon it. An interesting fact about the stars, of which no less than four grades use one, is that they all have the same basic shape as various other breast stars from German history. [8]

The reasoning behind this is not clear. It is not known if this is deliberate or coincidence, as the tools used to make the stars were in short supply after the war, and using stamping dies that were readily available and could be reused or acquired from other manufacturers would have been a good way of cutting costs and simplifying production in a Germany only just starting to experience the Wirtschaftswunder . It is of course possible that this could have been deliberate, and a way to celebrate German history in the design of the new honour for the Federal Republic. This is unlikely however as two stars represent decorations awarded during the Third Reich, and the other two are of Prussian origin. Prussia itself had only been recently abolished and the legacy of so called "Prussian militarism" was not something openly celebrated in the new Federal Republic of Germany.

The riband of the Order is made up of the colours of the German flag. The pattern is a large central band of red, edged on both sides in a smaller band of gold-black-gold. [9]


See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gerhard Schröder (CDU)</span> German politician (1910–1989)

Gerhard Schröder was a West German politician and member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party. He served as Federal Minister of the Interior from 1953 to 1961, as Foreign Minister from 1961 to 1966, and as Minister of Defence from 1966 until 1969. In the 1969 election he ran for President of the Federal Republic of Germany but was outpolled by Gustav Heinemann.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hans-Gert Pöttering</span> German lawyer and politician

Hans-Gert Pöttering is a German lawyer, historian and conservative politician, who served as President of the European Parliament from January 2007 to July 2009 and as Chairman of the CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation from 2010 to 2017.

Between 1947 and 1991, during the years of the Cold War, a large number of military awards and decorations were created by various nations to recognize the undeclared hostilities of the era. Military medals of the Vietnam War and the Korean War are the best known due to the extreme level of the conflicts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Order of the White Lion</span>

The Order of the White Lion is the highest order of the Czech Republic. It continues a Czechoslovak order of the same name created in 1922 as an award for foreigners. It was inspired by the Czech Nobility Cross created in 1814 by the Emperor and King Francis I and awarded to 37 Bohemian noblemen.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Order of the German Eagle</span> Nazi German award given to sympathetic foreigners.

The Order of Merit of the German Eagle was an award of the German Nazi regime, predominantly to foreign diplomats. The Order was instituted on 1 May 1937 by Adolf Hitler. It ceased to be awarded following the collapse of Nazi Germany at the end of World War II in Europe. The wearing of the Order of Merit of the German Eagle is prohibited in the Federal Republic of Germany.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Royal Order of Kapiolani</span>

The Royal Order of Kapiʻolani was instituted on August 30, 1880 by King Kalākaua to recognize services in the cause of humanity, for merit in Science and the Arts, or for special services rendered to the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. He named the Order in honor of his ancestor High Chiefess Kapiʻolani the Great, an early exponent of Christianity in the Hawaiian Islands. It also honored his wife Queen Kapiʻolani, the namesake of the first Kapiʻolani. This Order was awarded 177 times in all grades during Kalākaua's reign, and three more times by his successor, Queen Liliʻuokalani. The last award of the Order took place on 2 June 1892; in 1893 the Order became abeyant.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Military Merit Order (Bavaria)</span> Award

The Bavarian Military Merit Order was established on 19 July 1866 by King Ludwig II of Bavaria. It was the kingdom's main decoration for bravery and military merit for officers and higher-ranking officials. Civilians acting in support of the army were also made eligible for the decoration. The Military Merit Order ranked below the Military Order of Max Joseph (Militär-Max-Joseph-Orden), which was Bavaria's highest military honor for officers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">House and Merit Order of Peter Frederick Louis</span>

The House and Merit Order of Duke Peter Frederick Louis or proper German Oldenburg House and Merit Order of Duke Peter Frederick Louis was a civil and military order of the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg, a member state of the German Empire. The order was founded by Grand Duke Augustus of Oldenburg on 27 November 1838, to honor his father, Peter Frederick Louis of Oldenburg. It became obsolete in 1918 after the abdication of the last grand duke.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Volker Wieker</span>

Volker Wieker is the former Chief of Staff of the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, and a general of the German Army. Trained as an artillery officer, Wieker served in every major foreign Bundeswehr deployment since 1996, including Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

The honours system in the Republic of Austria is a means of rewarding individuals' personal achievement, or service to Austria by state decorations and medals.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria</span> Meritorious service award

The Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria is a state decoration of the Republic of Austria. It is divided into 15 classes and is the highest award in the Austrian national honours system.

Kurt Andersen was a general in the Luftwaffe of Nazi Germany during World War II and in the Bundesgrenzschutz of West Germany. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.

Albert Bürger was a fire official in West Germany. During World War II, he served in the Luftwaffe and was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Order of Henry the Lion</span>

The House Order of Henry the Lion In German: Hausorden Heinrichs des Löwen, was the House Order of the Duchy of Brunswick. It was instituted by William VIII, Duke of Brunswick on 25 April 1834. The ribbon of the Order was red with yellow edges. It had five grades: Grand Cross, Grand Commander with Sash, Commander, Knight 1st Class, Knight 2nd Class, plus Medal of Merit for Science and Arts, the Cross of Merit and the Medal of Honour. The Order was named in honour of Henry the Lion, who remains a popular figure to this day.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Order of Berthold the First</span>

The Order of Berthold the First was a dynastic order in the Grand Duchy of Baden. It was established on 29 April 1877 by Frederick I, Grand Duke of Baden to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of his accession as an additional class above the grand cross of the Order of the Zähringer Lion. On his seventieth birthday Frederick I separated it from that order and gave it statutes as an order in its own right. After that date, the order could be given to all persons for faithful service or as a special show of recognition and benevolence.

The Order of the Leopard is a merit order of the former Republic of Bophuthatswana. The Order was instituted in order to recognise service to the people of the Republic of Bophuthatswana. It was instituted by the President of the Republic of Bophuthatswana by official Warrant on 28 December 1979.


  1. "Verdienstorden der Bundesrepublik Deutschland". www.bundespraesident.de (in German). Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  2. The Oxford dictionary of abbreviations (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. 1992. p. 70. ISBN   978-0-19-280073-2 . Retrieved 27 October 2018.
  3. The Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, English; German, statistics, both Website of the President, and accessed 29 March 2014.
  4. Binder, Elisabeth (6 September 2001). "Bundesverdienstkreuz: Das Kreuz mit dem Dank". Der Tagesspiegel (in German). Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  5. Wördehoff, Bernhard (26 May 1989). "Ehre in Serie". Die Zeit (in German). Hamburg. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  6. "Ordensstufen des Verdienstordens der Bundesrepublik Deutschland" (PDF). auswaertiges-amt.de. German Federal Foreign Office . Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  7. "Bundesverdienstkreuz mit Lorbeerkranz für Kohl" (in German). Rhein-Zeitung. 26 October 1998.
  8. "Kapitel 1.2". www.1951.staatssymbole.de. Retrieved 2022-02-26.
  9. Hieronymussen, P. O., Orders and Decorations of Europe in Color (London: Macmillan Publishers, 1967).