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This group from Pour le Mérite holder Heindrich Strack contains his officially awarded Pour le Mérite in gilded silver and enamel, marked with the silver content mark “938” and “FR” for the maker Friedlaender. The “Blue Max” despite being a perfect original example shows its wear by the recipient as shown in the pictures. The ribbon ring is missing.
Besides various crisp black and white photographs showing him wearing his PlM, there are a few documents stating the award of the same. A summary of his accomplishments states that he was able to regain lost territory during the battles from September 27 to 30, 1918. He was able to defend 12 tanks and in his capacity of the rank of Captain was able to push the enemy back beyond their attack points.
The group furthermore contains some paperwork, photos and his “Wehrpass”. The Wehrpass confirms his assignments during the wars and lists his orders and decorations as follows:
Iron Cross 2nd class, 1914, September 28, 1914
Iron Cross 1st class, 1914, August 9, 1916
Prussia, House Order of Hohenzollern with swords, August 26, 1917
Prussia, Order of the Pour le Mérite, October 30, 1918
Wound Badge in Black, 1918
Hindenburg Cross, January 9, 1935
Long Service Crosses 1 – 4th grade, October 2, 1936
Hungary, War Commemorative Medal with Swords Mai 11, 1937
Austria, Military Merit Cross with Swords, June 4, 1937
Bulgaria, War Commemorative Medal, June 10, 1938
War Merit Cross 2nd Class with Swords, July 30, 1941
War Merit Cross 1st Class with Swords, September 1, 1942
Heinrich Strack was born on September 13, 1887, in Leipzig and passed away on October 12, 1943 in Schwarzbach (-St.Veit) in the Pongau of Austria. He was buried in Berlin on October 18, 1943.
His military career is as follows:
22.03.1906 Leutnant ohne Patent
22.06.1906 Patent erhalten
27.08.1939 Char. Generalleutnant
Kadett in Naumburg und Berlin-Großlichterfelde
22.03.1906 im 1. Ermländischen Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 150, Allenstein/Ostpreußen (heute: Olsztyn/Polen)
01.04.1912 Adjutant im II. Bataillon des 1. Ermländischen Infanterie-Regiments Nr. 150
15.11.1914 verwundet, Lazarett
01.05.1915 Regiments-Adjutant des 2. Ermländischen Infanterie-Regiments Nr. 151, Sensburg/Ostpreußen (heute: Mrągowo/Polen)
01.01.1916 Kompaniechef im 1. Ermländischen Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 150
01.05.1917 Führer des I. Bataillons des Infanterie-Regiments “General-Feldmarschall von Hindenburg“ (2. Masurisches) Nr. 147
01.02.1919 z.V. gestellt
01.10.1919 im Reichswehr-Infanterie-Regiment “General-Feldmarschall von Hindenburg“ Nr. 39 der Reichswehr-Brigade 20, Allenstein, der Vorläufigen Reichswehr
01.10.1920 Kompaniechef im 2. (Preußischen) Infanterie-Regiment, Allenstein
01.10.1925 beim Stab des I. Bataillons des 2. (Preußischen) Infanterie-Regiments, Allenstein
01.04.1928 beim Stab der Kommandantur Berlin
01.11.1930 Kommandeur des I. Bataillons des 8. (Preußischen) Infanterie-Regiments
01.08.1933 beim Stab des 8. (Preußischen) Infanterie-Regiments
01.10.1934 Kommandeur des Infanterie-Regiments Neumünster
15.10.1935 Kommandeur des Infanterie-Regiments 46 (Umbenennung), Neumünster
01.04.1938 Kommandeur der Heeres-Waffenmeister-Schule, Berlin- Treptow
01.09.1939 Kommandant von Danzig
Fantastic group of one of Germany’s WWI heroes.
Prince Elector Friedrich of Brandenburg, the later King Friedrich I. of Prussia, created on May 8, 1667, the order “de la Générosité”. After Friedrich II. claimed the Prussian throne in 1740 the order was transformed into the order “pour le mérite”. He did so while striving to elevate Prussia to a major player in Europe needing a true award for merit. Only during the second half of the 18th century the order was mostly awarded to active military personnel. At that time the Prussian army was 150.000 men strong. Friedrich Wilhelm III. changed the regulations of the “pour le mérite” on January 18, 1810, honoring military personnel for merit during combat only, thus it became a true military order. The “pour le mérite” for merit in Science and Arts was consecutively established in 1842. In 1813 however the oak leaf was added as a sign of repetitive or superseded qualification for winning a “pour le mérite”.
The order consisted initially of a blue enameled golden Maltese cross with golden eagles in between each cross arm. The avers showed the crown and cypher “F” for Friedrich on the top cross arm and the name Pour le Mé-, rite starting from the left cross arm to the right ending on the bottom.
In its existence a total of approximately 5750 decorations were awarded in all its models and variations. Out of the total number of awards about 900 go back to its founder Friedrich II. or “the Great” over a time span of 46 years, his successor Friedrich Wilhelm II. however, managed to award a similar number during a reign of only 11 years. The highest number of awarded “pour le mérite’s” came under the reign of Friedrich Wilhelm III. from 1797 to 1840.
Friedrich Wilhelm IV. added a golden crown for those recipients wearing the esteemed order for 50 years in 1844. He also re-established the value of the order “pour le mérite” by adding the swords to the Red Eagle Order, resulting in only 28 awards during the war of 1848/49. He did award only 32 during his reign. Wilhelm I. added the grand cross in 1866 and the oak leaf to the grand cross in 1873. He awarded about 300 decorations in his lifetime. Friedrich III. as the bearer of the grand cross saw no reason to award the “pour le mérite”. Wilhelm II. changed the practice of awarding orders and medals in general, including those of the order “pour le mérite”. He found only about 850 reasons to honor citizens and foreigners alike.
With the First World War degenerating into a long and costly trench warfare, precious raw materials grew scarce. Even the materials used for medals and decorations became subject to strict scrutiny. Following similar proclamations in other German states, Prussia mandated that medals and decorations should be made from replacement materials. The General Orders Commission ordered on October 10, 1916, that gold-based decorations should be crafted only from gilt silver with a silver content of 938/1000. By Prussian law those decorations had to be marked with the content mark 938 and the manufacturers control mark.
The order “pour le mérite” takes a special place amongst all awards for bravery within the German states and is well known worldwide as “Blue Max” as a homage to Max Immelmann, the first recipient of a “pour le mérite” within the German air force.