The expression "Dagger’s thrust legend stands for the effort, especially of the political right, to compensate for Germany’s defeat after the First World War with treasonous acts or. political errors within the Reich itself (defeatism of the population, November Revolution 1918, passivity of the state). The left-wing parties as well as German Jews were blamed in a sweeping way. On the other hand, the moderate left saw the expansive war aims of the right as a cause of defeat. Representatives of the radical left openly acknowledged the right’s accusations. From the end of 1918 onward, the major parties attempted, with varying degrees of intensity, to "stab in the back" what they perceived to be the actions of their respective domestic opponents but until 1933, this topic was not of any great significance. Within the right-wing camp, however, efforts were made to learn lessons from the "stab in the back" attacks draw on perceived events of 1918, some of which found expression in National Socialist policies after 1933 and especially during World War II.
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Origin of the Dolchstob accusation
Long before the armistice of 11. November 1918 accusations were raised that a victorious warfare was endangered by events in Germany itself. On the occasion of the strikes at the end of January 1918, for example, numerous daily newspapers spoke of "treason" the talk, for example in the Miesbacher Anzeiger (no. 26, 3. February 1918).
While the idea of a "stab in the back" and desertion in the had already been formulated in essence before the end of the war, the term itself can be safely demonstrated in public from December 1918 onward (Deutsche Tageszeitung, no. 641, 17. December 1918; Kreuz-Zeitung, no. 665, 31. December 1918). However, the Dolchstob legend cannot be reduced to this term. Rather, closely related formulations such as "stab in the back" are also to be found in this context or "treason among the terms that find general use in everyday language. The origin of the charge of stabbing in the back can thus neither be attributed to an individual nor fixed to a specific date.
The military causes of the defeat in 1918
In contrast to 1945, at the end of World War I the German forces had not been crushed and the Reich, with the exception of small areas in Alsace, was not occupied by enemy troops; Russia, Romania and Serbia had been defeated. On the Western Front, however, several German offensives with heavy losses had failed in the spring of 1918 after spectacular initial successes, and German troops had been in retreat since mid-July. The peace and armistice offer initiated by the military leadership on 3. The decision to continue the war in October 1918 was based on the realization that, in view of the increasing quantitative and, in some cases, qualitative superiority of its opponents – especially after the entry of the United States into the war – Germany no longer had any prospects of halting their advance in the long term. "All the bravery of the army", a German army commander stated on 14. November 1918 firmly "could not, when the Americans came along, help over the weakness of the battalions" (General von der Marwitz, Weltkriegsbriefe, Berlin 1940, 347). Already in the spring, the Bavarian Crown Prince Rupprecht (1869-1955), as leader of an army group, had noted the worsening balance of power, which adequately explained the German defeat (cf. My War Diary. 3 volumes, Munich 1929).
Defeatism and Revolution: Central Causes of Defeat from the Right’s Perspective
The right-wing accusations centered on defeatism and the November Revolution. The promotion of defeatism had in the long run "undermined" the morale of the army and the homeland; thus the will to victory, which was regarded as decisive, had been decisively weakened. The first high point in this connection was the peace resolution of the Reichstag of 19. July 1917.
As a symptom of the deliberately induced moral decay, the rightists also pointed to the marked increase in "shirking and desertion in the last year of the war from. The revolution had then abruptly made any further fighting impossible in the fall of 1918, forcing the acceptance of armistice conditions that amounted to surrender. By continuing the war, the argument went, the German Reich could at least have won better conditions.
Leftist Parties and Jews: Main Culprits from the Right’s Perspective
The Right blamed defeatism and revolution on those political groups to which they had already attributed a "patriotism" before 1914 respectively "hostile to the Reich" had insinuated. These included primarily Social Democratic and later Communist organizations, but also the left-liberal Progressive People’s Party and the Catholic Center. The Jews as a racially defined group were accused of using the left-wing parties to advance Jewish interests. In addition, the Jews were accused of sabotaging the war economy and thus of being responsible for the black market and hunger. Alfred Rosenberg (1893-1946), for example, described the "creation of the popularly proliferating war societies, whose activities and activities were the result of the war". a. the collapse is to be owed" (November heads, Munich 2. Edition 1939, 11) back to Walther Rathenau (1867-1922), a Jew murdered by right-wing extremists.
The Political Leadership: Complicit from the Right’s Perspective
In addition to the groups mentioned above, the right also held the political leadership of the war years responsible for the defeat, including Georg Graf von Hertling (1843-1919), who had been Reich Chancellor in 1917/18. This group of people was primarily blamed for advocating a peace of understanding, which was seen as weakening the will to win. Moreover, German propaganda had failed, since it had not been able to influence the morale of the Germans positively, i.e. in the sense of the victorious peace propagated by the Right. Another point of criticism was the commitment to a democratization of the constitution. The accusation that necessary armament measures had been prevented by the Reichstag before 1914 was ultimately aimed at the institution of parliament and thus at the political system as such.
Blaming the Right: Accusations of the Democratic Left
Already in the last weeks of the war, voices were raised in the left-wing camp that held the right responsible for the looming defeat. At the center of these accusations were the expansive demands for war aims and the desired peace of victory, which would have made any understanding with the opponents impossible. In the struggle against the domestic opponent and probably also as a reaction to his attacks, the left adopted the terminology of the right, as evidenced by an article in the Frankfurter Zeitung: "The men who, for dynastic reasons or out of a nationalistic desire for grandeur, did not want to tolerate peace without annexations were the "stab in the backs (no. 815, 1. November 1925).
The End of the War from the Perspective of the Radical Left
The way radical leftists deal with the issue of the "stab in the back" is a marginal phenomenon dar. In contrast to the majority Social Democracy, the USPD politician Kurt Eisner (1867-1919), for example, explicitly acknowledged the accusations made by the right. From this perspective, however, it was not the revolution that constituted a crime, but the war itself. The fight against the war, however, was not only considered a right, but also a duty. The Communists in particular used the term "stab in the back" finally, on the SPD’s alleged betrayal of the interests of the working class.
The Stab in the Back in Domestic Politics
The Dolchstob thesis was present in the public sphere until 1933, but from the beginning it did not play a decisive role in the election campaigns at the level of the Reich. In the second half of the 1920s, it increasingly lost its significance. While the right-wingers in particular attacked their domestic political opponents with the accusation of "stabbing in the back the moderate left reacted with a combination of its own accusations and factual counterarguments.
In Bavaria, the "distorted analysis of the causes of the revolution" led to the As early as 1919, the authorities were considering "tightening up the law on foreigners in the name of preventing revolution and in particular to expel so-called Eastern Jews (Dirk Walter, Antisemitic Crime and Violence. Hostility to Jews in the Weimar Republic, Bonn 1999, 54f., 246f.).
In April and May 1924, the Social Democratic Munich Post responded to attacks by the Suddeutsche Monatshefte, edited by Paul Nikolaus Cossmann (1869-1942), within the two weeks before the Reichstag elections of 4. May with about a dozen contributions. The Post not only attacked the Right, but also cited the "numerical superiority of our opponents in terms of men and equipment as a factual argument against the stab in the back theory put forward by the right (Nr. 99, 28. April 1924). The disputes between Cossmann and the Munich Post found their legal continuation in 1925 in the "Dolchstob-Prozess" (Stabbing Trial). The final phase of the war was also the subject of an investigative committee of the Reichstag from 1919 to 1928.
Right-wing Lessons from the Alleged "Stab in the Back
Within the right-wing camp, and especially for Nazism, the question of the causes of the 1918 defeat played a greater role than in the public at large. This is how Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) spoke of the "crucial importance" before 1933 This is a question for a political movement "whose goal should be to overcome this defeat" (Mein Kampf, Munich 538.-542. Edition 1940, 247), and set himself the goal of "making Germany as clean and strong and vigorous in its foundations" as possible to make "that it for all future catastrophes like at the 9.11.can no longer experience 1918" (Hitler. Speeches, writings, orders. February 1925 to January 1933. 3. Volume, 1. Part, Munich 1994, 192).
After the 30. January 1933, with the parliamentary system and party pluralism, central factors of the supposed "stab in the back" were quickly from 1918 eliminated. The establishment of the Reich Ministry for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda eliminated another shortcoming that was repeatedly mentioned in the context of the Dolchstob legend. Numerous statements of leading National Socialists indicate that the intention to reduce the danger of a new "stab in the back also played an important role in the genesis of the Holocaust. Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945), for example, noted after a conversation with Hitler in May 1942 that even "in November 1918 a lot could have been done if an energetic man had used brutal means of power". To "subversive movements in Germany, the Jews were to be "liquidated" (Diaries. 4. Volume, Munich 1992, 1805).