Das Ritterkreuz des Eisernes Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub (The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oakleaves)

Awarded to Michael Wittmann on 30th January 1944 as SS-Untersturmführer and Tiger I/platoon Commander, 13. (schwere) Kompanie, SS Panzer Regiment 1, 1. SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, Eastern Front, for continued exceptional bravery in the face of the enemy and for achieving over one hundred enemy tank kills.

The Oakleaves (or Eichenlaub), the first addition to the Knight’s Cross series of awards, were instituted on 3rd June 1940 in recognition of further deeds performed by existing recipients of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross. Also commonly known as the Oakleaf Cluster, the finely-crafted design incorporated a cluster of three small oakleaves, with the central leaf overlapping the other two.

Das Ritterkreuz des Eisernes Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub (The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oakleaves)
Das Ritterkreuz des Eisernes Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub (The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oakleaves)
The newly-promoted Wittmann wears his Oakleaves, but is yet to upgrade his rank collar patch to Obersturmführer
The newly-promoted Wittmann wears his Oakleaves, but is yet to upgrade his rank collar patch to Obersturmführer

Like the frame of the Knight’s Cross award itself, the Oakleaves measured 20mm by 20mm and were struck in either .800 or .935 grade silver, although there were some examples of pieces being made from silver-plated bronze or brass. On the reverse was soldered a ribbon loop, which allowed the bearer to attach it to the Cross by replacing the existing loop. The Oakleaves were awarded in a small black case, specially tailored to hold both the award and a length of replacement 45mm or 46mm silk ribbon.

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