In the US, the highest award for valor is the Medal of Honor. The British have the Victora Cross. For Germany, the highest award that they could get, in terms of valor, is the Iron Cross. During World War II, it was the most awarded medal in comparison to all other countries that were part of the war. As German fighter pilot ace Gunther Rall said, “It was either the Iron Cross or the wooden cross.”
While achievements and bravery usually merit this medal, it was also automatically given to servicemen who completed a challenging act or two.
Adolf Hitler himself was an Iron Cross recipient in World War I. He loved dealing with and reviewing possible award cases, all while ensuring that the award criteria would always remain fair and objective. This is so that all men would be recognized for their bravery and achievements as fairly as possible regardless of their ranks and branches.
Eventually, levels of both the Iron Cross and Knights Cross were introduced, usually by having to be rewarded of the previous level first before qualifying for the next one. There were Iron Cross 1st and 2nd class. The Knights Cross can be further decorated to Knights Cross with oak leaves, Knights Cross with oak leaves and swords, Knights Cross with oak leaves swords and diamonds, and lastly, Knights Cross with golden oak leaves swords and diamonds, which was the highest medal of all.