War Medals

World War I War Medals from the Frankenhuis Collection


In commemoration of the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, the museum is displaying an important and rare collection of medals and medallions made during the war by the fighting powers, designed by the finest artists who lived and worked in Europe during World War I.

In shape a medal resembles a coin but it is not used as a means of payment but rather in commemorationof particular persons, topics, events or achievementsin various fields. Commemorative medals are a tradition that dates from early times, and which developed particularly in the period of the Renaissance. The main objective of the medals in this collection was to disseminate propaganda against the enemy; they carry images that relate to the atrocities of war and human suffering which comes in its wake, as well asapocalyptic visions. The expressionist style of the medals wasdesigned to heighten the effect of propaganda. Most of the medals were cast in iron and not in bronze, since bronze was used for munitions production.

The donor, Morris Frankenhuis (1894-1969) was born in Germany. He sold part of his medal collection to the British Museum after World War I. When World War II broke out he asked for political asylum in England, and in exchange offered to donate the rest of his collection to the British Museum. Despite efforts on the part of the mythical museum curator, Sir Francis Hill, the authorities refused and Frankenhuis and his family were sent to a concentration camp. He survived and after the war settled in the United States, where he was renowned for his philanthropic work and contribution to the commemoration of the Holocaust. In 1961 he donated the collection,which was not transferred to the British Museum before the war, to the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv.


Curator: Cecila Meir