The world’s headlines and television screens have followed Russian
President Vladimir Putin’s detachment of the Crimean peninsula from
Ukraine and its effective return to the Russian rule it knew from 1783
to the early 1990s. Numismatists can find Crimean coins of ancient
Greek colonies, followed by Byzantine, Tatar and Turkish coins that
followed, ending with the copper coins of the last khan, Shahin Giray
bin Ahmad Giray (1777 to 1783).
The 20th century offered few modern Crimean collectibles, but one
notable item is the Crimea Shield, awarded to German troops occupying
the peninsula in the first, victorious phase of their invasion of the
Soviet Union in the summer of 1941.
Commanding the swift seizure of this strategic region was Gen. Erich
von Manstein, promoted to field marshal after the conquest of this
region and its warm-water ports in the Black Sea. Battle shields were
first awarded to German troops who seized the Norwegian port of Narvik.
The Crimea Shield was instituted on July 25, 1942, for “members of
the armed forces who between 21 September 1941 and 4 July 1942 were
honorably engaged in the fighting in the Crimea either on land, or in
the air, or at sea,” according to See Juergen Brinkmann’s Orden und
Ehrenzeichen des Dritten Reichs.
Recipients had to have served in the area at least three months,
taken part in at least one major engagement or have been wounded.
These strict requirements were intended to frustrate junketing German
officers from claiming yet another award for a brief visit to the
This Krimschild was worn on servicemen’s uniforms on the upper left
arm, as well as the political uniform of Nazi Party bigwigs. If two
awards were received, both were worn, one above the other.
Designed by Richard Klein, known to militaria collectors as “Pinback
Klein,” the shield bears a relief map inscribed KRIM with the mainland
above bearing dates 1941 – 1942, topped by the spread-winged Nazi
eagle perched on a swastika. The shield consists of two separate
pieces of metal riveted together, with the cloth of a uniform
sandwiched between the pieces.
Battle shields were not numerous, as Adolf Hitler fanatically
opposed retreat or the escape of besieged armies such as the forces at
Stalingrad. No retreat meant few or no survivors to receive awards of
any kind. Tens of thousands of German POW’s became slave laborers in
the USSR, held through the 1950s.
By March 1944, the Soviets had recaptured Crimea and the Krimschild
was relegated to history.