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"Soldiers Awards"

Page Still Under Construction

Reprinted form an article by Louis H. Brown

in the Winter 1996-97 "Die Nationale Volksarmee"

Journal for Society of East German Militaria Collectors


Edited by Joe Rivers (Major Kulow) 


"DIE SOLDATENAUSZEICHNUNGEN" or "Soldiers' Awards" were an integral part of the important concept of "Socialist Competition" within the NVA. While other awards were won based, normally, on meritorious achievement which had come to the attention of a superior, "Soldiers' Awards" were available to all soldiers who met the award criteria. The six awards which traditionally belonged to this group were;

1.      Das Klassifizierungsabzeichen – Classification Badge

2.      Die Schutzenschnur – Marksmanship Lanyard

3.      Das Sportabzeichen der DDR – DDR Sports Badge *

4.      Das Militarsportabzeichen – Military Sports Badge

5.      Das Abzeichen "Fur gutes Wissen" – Badge "For Superior Knowledge"

6.      Das Bestenabzeichen – "Best" Badge (Bester)

7.      Leistungsabzeichen  - NVA and Grenztruppen Achievement Badge *(This is supplemental, not included with the original article)

While actual medals generally tended to be awarded to professional soldiers, these awards were aimed mainly at Conscripts, who could reasonably be expected to win them during the 18 months of their service. The DDR Sports Badge in not discussed below since I (the original author) do not have any information on it.


* Note - Additional information has since been found and information about the DDR Sports Badge and the NVA and Grenztruppen Achievement Badge – {Leistungsabzeichen} have been included as supplemental information in this article – editor


Klassifizierungsabzeichen – Classification Badge


        The Classification Badge was instituted in 1960 and underwent several revisions before reaching its final version in 1986. It was awarded for "Exemplary Military Accomplishments" in three classes; I – highest, III – lowest. It could be won by;

•       Soldiers

•       NCOs

•       Warrant Officers (Fahnriche)

•       Officers responsible for service, maintenance, or repair of equipment and material

•       Officers who, because of their duty position, had personally to possess mastery of technical skills

•       Enlisted specialists and NCO/Fahnriche Officer/Officer Candidates


The criteria for the award were

•       Politically aware and disciplined execution of duty including achievement of the requirements established in the training program for technical and military-technical training with minimum "Good" marks

•       Exemplary service, maintenance, and repair of equipment and material

•       Conscientious fulfillment of the military regulations concerning prevention of premature wearout and the rational use of material.


Soldiers were paid a bonus upon attainment of, or re-qualification for the Klassifizierungsabzeichen – Classification Badge. Re-qualification was required every 2 to 3 years. Soldiers for whom a specific Classification Badge did not exist (Parachutists, e.g.) could receive the General Classification Badge ( Allgemeines Klassifizierungsabzeichen).




Schutzenschnur – Marksmanship Lanyard


        The "Schutzenschnur" was instituted in 1957 and redesigned in 1986.

The Marksmanship Lanyard could be awarded to;

•       Soldiers and NCOs, according to their branch of service, for weapons firing with tanks, for motorized rifle formations for firing with vehicle and personal weapons, for artillery for "Direct Lay" firing of their assigned weapons, and for the launch of anti-tank guided missiles

•       In the general form (Crossed Rifles), to soldiers and NCOs of other branches, special troops, and services including soldier-specialists and NCO/Fahnriche Officer/Officer Candidates for firing with their Personal weapons.


The Award Qualifications were:

•       Completion of the last record firing (last evaluated exercise) according to the annual or semi-annual training program with a grade of "Very Good" and all other evaluated exercises rated "Good" at minimum.

•       Continuous readiness and regulation care of assigned weapons

•       Exemplary political and military conduct and leadership


Upon attainment of the standard for the award, the individual was presented the actual lanyard; subsequent awards (up to three) were denoted by the addition of Acorns to the lanyard. Awards were sequential for meeting the criteria—there was no provision for obtaining a higher award based on higher scores. Once awarded, the lanyard did not require revalidation to continue being worn. Note also that the Marksmanship Lanyard was not awarded simply for qualifying with one's assigned weapon.



Abzeichen "Fur gutes Wissen" – Badge "For Superior Knowledge"


The Badge "For Superior Knowledge" was awarded through the "Freie Deutsche Jugend" (FDJ—Free German Youth), a youth organization which held a recognized partnership with the NVA wherein the social means of the young conscript could be met while continuing his political education. Established in 1949 the "For Superior Knowledge" award predates the NVA, tracing its lineage through the FDJ's original partnership with the Volkspolizei.


Awarded in bronze (lowest), silver, and gold (highest), the Badge "For Superior Knowledge" was obtained by writing an essay on a subject specified to the individual by the FDJ committee, as well as taking part in a seminar. Specific criteria for award of the different classes were at the discretion of the Central Committee for the FDJ.



Das Militarsportabzeichen – Military Sports Badge

        Instituted in 1969, the Military Sports Badge could be awarded to NVA members as well as civilian employees. There are five age groups for males in which scoring for individual test events was graduated. In age groups I and II (18 – 35 years), four compulsory events were required, with only three required for age groups III through V (36 – 50 years). Additionally, one elective event was required for all age groups. Achievement in an event produced between one and three Leistungspunkte (achievement points)—age groups I and II required 12, while age groups III through V needed 9 achievement points for award of the badge. In age group II in the 3,000 meter run, for example, a time of 11:30 netted an individual 3 Leistungspunkte, 12:20 was worth 2, and 13:20 was worth 1 Leistungspunkte. (Note: in addition to a “Level II” swimming qualification, award of the “DDR Sports Badge in Gold” was a prerequisite for award of the Military Sports Badge.)

        Compulsory events were an assault course (a 3,000 meter run could be substituted for the assault course); hand grenade throws for (a) distance and (b) accuracy; and chin-ups. For age groups III through V, the assault course/3,000m run was eliminated. Elective events from which the individual in age classes I and II could choose were swimming in uniform; 5,000m run; shot put; vertical rope climb, or a springboard vault (special requirement for the LSK/LV). Elective events for age groups III through V were endurance swim; endurance run; bench press; vertical rope climb; or a springboard vault.

        In order to maintain the award, an individual was required to re-qualify every two years. After the 5th re-qualification, or upon Honorable Discharge, the individual could wear the award indefinitely without further testing. Female personnel could also achieve the Military Sports Badge after fulfilling certain requirements, but those requirements were not known of by the author.



Sport Abzeichen "Bereit zur Arbeit und zur Verteidigung der Heimat"

Sports Badge "Ready to Work and Defend the Home Country"

(Supplemental – not on original article, editor)


The Sport Badge "Ready to Work and Defend the Home Country" is often seen on NVA uniforms, particularly in photographs from the 1970's, and is commonly referred to as the "DDR Sports Badge". The model illustrated (below) was introduced in 1965, nearly 4 years before the introduction of the NVA Sports Badge. The DDR Sports Badge did not count as a military decoration and the NVA Sports Badge did. However, the DDR Sports Badge was used as a tool to support Socialist Military indoctrination and defense readiness. It was awarded in three classes; bronze, silver, and gold. According to the 1978 regulations regarding the DDR Sports Badge, men and women of all ages could qualify for the DDR Sports Badge. To win it in bronze, for instance, youth between the ages of 14 and 18 had to perform the following tasks:

•       Air rifle marksmanship at 8 meters, standing, no support. Ten-ring target (no qualifying score listed).

•       Throwing the cudgel (voluntary): cudgel 500 gramms (sic), at least 25 meters.

•       Marching: 10k in 2 hours

•       Obstacle course: 200m, climbing the escalade wall in 2 minutes.

•       Climbing the rope or bar to a height of 4m.


The DDR Sports Badge was worn centered on the right breast pocket in the same position as the NVA Sports Badge.



•       EGA East German Army Dictionary, Compiled by Ullrich Ruhmland, Bonner Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, Bonn-Rottgen, 1984.


Das Bestenabzeichen – "Best" Badge (Bester)


        Das Bestenabzeichen – While an actual badge was not instituted until 1964, the practice of naming individuals “Best” as part of the “Socialist Competition” had been practiced for years. Soldiers and NCO/Fahnriche Officer/Officer Candidates as well as NCOs without subordinates could be awarded the title “Bester” for meeting the following conditions;

•       Execution of all duties according to regulations

•       Scoring marks of “Very Good” in main training

•       Marks of “Good” in all other training departments

•       Maintain their skills, equipment and weapons in very good condition

•       Be in possession of all other Soldatenauszeichnungen possible for their position

•       Take an active part in the social life of their military collective

•       Assist other NVA members in their training

•       Have no disciplinary punishments

•       Be exemplary in their military order and dicipline

•       Hold to the precepts of the Communist Moral

•       Conserve material resources


        Reservists could also be names "Bester" after a minimum of three months of reserve service upon fulfilling the conditions—except for possession of the other Soldatenauszeichnungen –noted above.


        Army members honored with the title "Bester Gruppenfuhrer" (Best Squad Leader), "Bester Zuggfuhrer" (Best Platoon Leader), or "Bester Kompaniechef" (Best Company Commander) likewise received the Bestenabzeichen provided they fulfilled the above-listed conditions. In addition, their unit had also to receive the "Bestentitel" as a group. Any Hauptfeldwebel (First Sergeant) coul also be names "Bester" who fulfilled the personal award requirements as well as having a company in which military order and discipline reigned, military life was strictly organized, weapons and equipment were well maintained and battle ready, and material resources were effectively untilized in the interest of the mission as well as duty and welfare concerns.


        The assistant to the platoon leader and company commander could also receive the award provided they personally met the requirements and their unit achieved the title as a group.


        Army members from units of special-technical security posts, the rearward services (logistical troops), and construction and engineering units had, in addition, to achieve a high productivity rate as well as demonstrating the fulfillment of all economic norms.


        There was a financial reward (between 100-500 Marks) connected to award and re-award of the Badge. The original Badge had re-award hangers with numbers up to "25" for subsequent awards. In 1982, the badge was considerably re-weighted to enhance its prestige, and the number of possible re-awards was limited to 3. At that time the range of possible recipients was also expanded to include, for the first time, officers and warrant officers in the position of First Sergeant (some Fahnriche  served in this position), platoon leader, or company commander. When the new Badge was introduced in 1986, it carried forward the possibility of being re-awarded only three times. Individuals could, however, continue to fulfill the requirements for the award of the badge; in lue of the Bestenabzeichen, the soldier received the Leistungsabzeichen for his fifth completion of the requirements. Subsequent re-qualifications resulted in award of the Verdienstmedaille der NVA (NVA Meritorious Service Medal): Bronze for the seventh; silver for the ninth; and gold for the twelfth re-qualification.


(Note: The badge "Fur grosse Fahrt" was NOT the naval Bester Badge as claimed by some in the past {It was awarded for a long sea voyage}. Naval personnel utilized the same Badge as the other components: the LaSK and LSK/LV.)




NVA and Grenztruppen "Leistungsabzeichen" (Achievement Badges)

(Supplemental – not on original article, editor)


        When the NVA was formally created in 1956, one of the first awards that was authorized was the "Leistungsabzeichen der National Volksarmee"; or the "NVA Achievement Badge". It was awarded in only one class. In 1959 the badge design was modified to ass the hammer and compass device of the DDR to the flag. The NVA Achievement Badge was originally a State Award and was subsequently changed to a non-State award after 1978.


The NVA Achievement Badge was awarded for;

•       Outstanding proficiency and results in political and military training

•       For special achievement in Socialist and military training

•       For special achievement in Socialist competition

•       For personal actions in defense of the DDR


The NVA Achievement Badge was awarded was awarded to;

•       Individual soldiers

•       Sailors

•       NCOs

•       Petty Officers

•       Officers up to Company Commander level


It was also awarded to FDJ soldiers collectives in military units. It was awarded with a certificate and, for a period of time, included a premium of 150 Marks.


The NVA Achievement Badge is bright copper in color, oval in shape, and measures 45mm x 35mm. It has a single pin clasp-type of fastener on the upper back. At various times it was worn in different locations on the uniform blouse. From 1956 to 11960 it was worn centered on the right breast pocket. From 1960 to 1972 it was worn centered on the left breast pocket. From 1972 to 1990 it was worn centered approximately 3/8 of an inch above the right breast pocket.


The Grenztruppen was created in 1961 when the Grenzpolizei were transferred from control of the Ministry of Interior to the Ministry of National Defense. In 1962 the Grenzpolizei Achievement Badge was adopted and authorized for wear as the "Leistungsabzeichen der Grenztruppen der DDR". It was also a State award until 1978 and was made a non-State award thereafter. It could be awarded, in miniature size, to citizens who were classed as helpers of the Grenztruppen (Grenzhelfer). The Grenztruppen Achievement Badge is subdued bronze in color and circular in shape, measuring 35mm in diameter, and has a single clasp-type fastener on the back. The miniature version of the badge, measuring 20mm in diameter, is also available.



•       Militarische Abzeichen der DDR, Klaus Feder et al, Militarverlag der DDR, 1988

•       EGA East German Army Dictionary, Compiled by Ullrich Ruhmland, Bonner Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, Bonn-Rottgen, 1984.



Wear and Placement of "DIE SOLDATENAUSZEICHNUNGEN" or "Soldiers' Awards"


        As "nichtstaatliche Auszeichnungen" ("Non State Awards", i.e., though approved of by the Central Government, they were the creation of individual agencies and did not qualify as "State Awards", which were theoretically open to all). The Soldatenauszeichnungen were positioned on the right breast side of all uniforms as shown in the above diagram. Remember when setting uf uniforms that, generally speaking, when a soldier had the "Bestenabzeichen", he would have had the others as well since they were prerequisites (unless an award was not authorized for the individual's position—Officers, for example, were not authorized the Marksmanship Lanyard). The above applied throughout the NVA—in the three components (VM, LaSK and LSK/LV) as wellas the Grenztruppen and Zivilverteidigung.


        Although an older-model tunic is arbitrarily shown, wear positions for these awards was constant throughout NVA history. For jackets without pockets, badges are worn in the same relative positions.


The upper end of the Marksmanship Lanyard was secured by running the shoulder strap "tongue" through the loop at the end of the "Schutzenschnur" before placing the tongue through the loop on the jacket. I (original author) have encountered jackets on which a button has been added to the right shoulder (under the shoulder strap) to accept the Schutzenschnur's top loop. On open-lapelled jackets, the Schutzenschnur terminated at the top button. On NVA naval jumpers, it was worn from a small button located under the knot of the "Kiel Collar". The Schutzenschnur could also be worn in the naval "Uberzeiher" (Pea Coat – the wear of awards on this outerwear item is a German Navy peculiarity); on it, as well as on the naval reefer jacket, it was worn from the shoulder strap tongue to the top right jacket button.


        When setting up a uniform, be SURE you check the wear dates of the uniform as well as any badges you intend to put on it to ensure that both coincide. There is no point in putting the 1986 Bester on a jacket that went out of wear in 1974!



•       NVA Kalender:1990, compiled by Oberst Dieter Hein, Militarverlag der DDR, 1990

•       Militarische Abzeichen der DDR, Klaus Feder et al, Militarverlag der DDR, 1988

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