Stab-in-the-back theory

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Austrian postcard (Postkarte) on the stab-in-the-back theory from 1919

The stab-in-the-back (German: Dolchstoß, disparaging Dolchstoßlegende) refers to numerous analyses or theories following the German military collapse in the second half of 1918 during the First World War, political machinations by the Reichstag parties and their eager acceptance of an armistice and the consequent harsh peace treaty caused, at least in part, by 'enemy within' betrayals. A variety of groups are said to have contributed to this, including communist groups inspired by the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, liberals wanting full unfettered democracy to replace the semi-autocratic German government, deserting soldiers, strikers wanting an end to wartime conditions, etc. Such theories may also include deliberate sabotage.


The caricature from around 1923 shows Socialist Philipp Scheidemann and Imperial corrupter (Reichsverderber) Matthias Erzberger stabbing German frontline soldiers from behind.

Mainstream historians' descriptions tend to dismiss the theories and exclusively refer to the period leading up to the German military collapse in the West and the November revolution in 1918; that German military leaders supported the stab-in-the-back thesis in order to shift blame from themselves, and dismiss the Jewish political machinations in the major cities during the war by saying that many Jews fought with distinction in the German forces, etc., etc. Mainstreamers sometimes also conclude that the subsequent long period of internal unrest was caused by hardship and starvation, and factors such as the further attempted uprisings by communists.


Revisionists argue that Jews had prominent roles in some associated movements (including inside the German Social Democratic Party, founded by a Jew) and to have been influenced by factors including the possibility of removal of previous restrictions on Jews, such as appointments to higher governmental positions. The November Revolution is said to have had many Jewish leaders and supporters. Jews are shown to have had influential positions during the creation of the Weimar Republic, which had removed previous restrictions on Jews. Comparisons were also made with the (attempted) communist revolutions in other countries at this time (i.e: Hungary) and in particular with the October Revolution which had already taken place in Russia. The relationship between Jews and Communism was always pointed out. The widely read The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was another factor. Such theories contributed to the German National Socialist view of Jews. (See the "External links" section.)


All appear to ignore the degrees of military disintegration which contributed to the situation, since Germany no longer had a serious defensive capability (though foreign armies were a long way from German soil).

See also

External links