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The award was graded the same as the Iron Cross: War Merit Cross Second Class, War Merit Cross First Class, and Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross.
The award had two variants: with swords given to soldiers for exceptional service in battle above and beyond the call of duty (but not worthy of an Iron Cross which was more a bravery award), and without swords for meritorious service behind the lines which could also be awarded to civilians.
Recipients had to have the lower grade of the award before getting the next level.
The ribbon of the War Merit Cross 2nd Class could be worn like the ribbon of the Iron Cross 2nd Class (through the second buttonhole).