Navigation and service

The Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany

The Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany was instituted in 1951 by Federal President Theodor Heuss. It is the only honour that may be awarded in all fields of endeavour and is the highest tribute the Federal Republic of Germany can pay to individuals for services to the nation.
The Order of Merit may be awarded to Germans as well as foreigners for achievements in the political, economic, social or intellectual realm and for all kinds of outstanding services to the nation in the field of social, charitable or philanthropic work. No pecuniary reward is attached.

Main fields of endeavour honoured

In awarding the Order of Merit the Federal President wishes to draw public attention to achievements that he believes are of particular value to society generally. Future awards should take more account of the achievements of women as well as young people. The main fields honoured are:

  • Social, philanthropic and church work "away from the public eye"
  • Efforts to improve employment prospects as well as create jobs and training opportunities for young people
  • Entrepreneurial achievement in boosting long-term growth and employment particularly in regions with structural problems
  • Outstanding scientific achievement generating new momentum or resulting in innovations and inventions with strong future potential
  • Efforts to foster peaceful interaction and mutual tolerance between different religions and cultures
  • Contributions to enhancing Germany's standing abroad and its relations with its European neighbours

In most cases the Order is awarded by the Minister President of a Land, by a Land or Federal Minister, a Regional Commissioner or the mayor of a city. In a few cases the Federal President may present awards himself on occasions such as the Day of German Unity or Voluntary Service Day.


Since the Order of Merit was instituted in 1951 awards have been made to some 255,500 people (January 2017).

Awards from 2006 to 2016

Suggestions for awards

Anyone may suggest that the Order of Merit be awarded to a particular person. Suggestions should include the following information:

  • first name and surname
  • address
  • date of birth
  • a brief description of the special services rendered to the Federal Republic of Germany or society generally.

Suggestions should be sent directly to the State or Senate Chancellery of the Land in which the person suggested for an award resides. If the person suggested lives abroad or is a foreign citizen, the suggestion should be sent to the Federal Foreign Office in 11013 Berlin. If the person suggested is employed by the Federal Government, the suggestion should be sent to the relevant Federal Minister.

Nominations for awards

Only certain persons may submit actual nominations to the Federal President: the Heads of Government (Minister Presidents) of the 16 Federal Länder may nominate citizens of their own Land, the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs foreign citizens or Germans resident abroad and the Federal Ministers people employed in their ministries. The Federal President decides on awards in consensus with them and in the light of their considered opinions and recommendations.