The symbolic, socio-economic and exchange value of Imperial German and National Socialist medals and badges, 1701 to the present

Hughes, Michael Grant (2016) The symbolic, socio-economic and exchange value of Imperial German and National Socialist medals and badges, 1701 to the present. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis examines the manufacture, use, exchange (including gift exchange), collecting and commodification of German medals and badges from the early 18th century until the present-day, with particular attention being given to the symbols that were deployed by the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) between 1919 and 1945. It does so by focusing in particular on the construction of value through insignia, and how such badges and their symbolic and monetary value changed over time. In order to achieve this, the thesis adopts a chronological structure, which encompasses the creation of Prussia in 1701, the Napoleonic wars and the increased democratisation of military awards such as the Iron Cross during the Great War. The collapse of the Kaiserreich in 1918 was the major factor that led to the creation of the NSDAP under the eventual strangle-hold of Hitler, a fundamentally racist and anti-Semitic movement that continued the German tradition of awarding and wearing badges. The traditional symbols of Imperial Germany, such as the eagle, were then infused with the swastika, an emblem that was meant to signify anti-Semitism, thus creating a hybrid identity. This combination was then replicated en-masse, and eventually eclipsed all the symbols that had possessed symbolic significance in Germany’s past.
After Hitler was appointed Chancellor in 1933, millions of medals and badges were produced in an effort to create a racially based “People’s Community”, but the steel and iron that were required for munitions eventually led to substitute materials being utilised and developed in order to manufacture millions of politically oriented badges. The Second World War unleashed Nazi terror across Europe, and the conscripts and volunteers who took part in this fight for living-space were rewarded with medals that were modelled on those that had been instituted during Imperial times. The colonial conquest and occupation of the East by the Wehrmacht, the Order Police and the Waffen-SS surpassed the brutality of former wars that finally culminated in the Holocaust, and some of these horrific crimes and the perpetrators of them were perversely rewarded with medals and badges.
Despite Nazism being thoroughly discredited, many of the Allied soldiers who occupied Germany took part in the age-old practice of obtaining trophies of war, which reconfigured the meaning of Nazi badges as souvenirs, and began the process of their increased commodification on an emerging secondary collectors’ market. In order to analyse the dynamics of this market, a “basket” of badges is examined that enables a discussion of the role that aesthetics, scarcity and authenticity have in determining the price of the artefacts. In summary, this thesis demonstrates how the symbolic, socio-economic and exchange value of German military and political medals and badges has changed substantially over time, provides a stimulus for scholars to conduct research in this under-developed area, and encourages collectors to investigate the artefacts that they collect in a more historically contextualised manner.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: National Socialism, Third Reich, Imperial Germany, collecting, symbols, gift exchange, value, medals and badges, Iron Cross, Nazi Germany, Nazi memorabilia.
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DD Germany
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Economic and Social History
Supervisor's Name: Stokes, Professor Raymond
Date of Award: 2016
Embargo Date: 16 September 2024
Depositing User: Mr Michael Grant Hughes
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7584
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 Oct 2016 14:51
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2021 09:12

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