Prepare for the worst: Part 1, WW1 and Germany

reading time 3 min

Copied from Facebook. Not written by me. I’ll have commentary later this week.

Hi, it’s me, your friend who has spent over 40 years studying World War 2, and today I’d like to talk to you about dolchstoß, the “stabbed-in-the-back” myth, and how it relates to America today.

Our story begins in 1918, at the end of WW1. After a failed Spring offensive (in which my immigrant great-uncle was killed serving in the American Army btw) that was its last gasp, the Germany army was comprehensively defeated on the Western Front. General Ludendorff admitted privately in September that the war was lost, but left it to the civilian powers to work out an armistice. This was signed in November, ending the war. The Kaiser abdicated the same day, ushering in the Weimar Republic.

This was all quite a shock to the average German. They had straight up won the war in the east and still occupied huge territories there. Fighting on the Western Front had never reached German soil. Army propaganda had kept them in the dark as to the dire state of affairs by the Fall of 1918. Since there was civil unrest and mutinies leading up to the German Revolution, it was all too easy for the army and the right wing political parties to seek to blame others for the loss of the war. The army was never defeated, they proclaimed. It was stabbed in the back by the “November criminals” of Weimar, socialists, and of course–because this is the right wing we are talking about–the Jews. Never mind that Jewish soldiers had served at all levels of the Germany Army throughout WW1.

The harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles only added fuel to the fire, so throughout the 20s the dolchstoß myth continued to grow. And can you guess who exploited it to the hilt? That’s right, Hitler and the Nazis. This is the sort of resentment that fueled Hitler’s rise to power, with disastrous consequences to the world. Hitler started World War 2 to avenge, in his mind, the betrayals of 1918.

So how does this relate to America today? Well, what we are seeing on the right at this moment is the creation of a new dolchstoß myth. Trump refuses to admit that he was beaten. And he indisputably was. He knew–particularly after his epic failure to deal with Covid–that he was likely to lose, so long before the election he started lying about the outcome. If he won, it’d be legitimate. If he lost, he was cheated. He could not ever admit the possibility of a legitimate loss. It’s just beyond his narcissistic mind. So he’s lied endlessly about how he really won in a landslide and of course the right wing propaganda machine has backed his play. The direct consequences of this was the coup attempt on January 6. We will almost certainly see more political violence this week and beyond. Because the American right now has their own dolchstoß. The wannabe tough guys who call everyone else a snowflake cannot handle the loss of a single election. It can’t possibly be legitimate. They must have been betrayed.

This is why we must learn from history and fight the Big Lie. Trump lost, end of story. Trying to overturn the Constitution you pretend to revere is not patriotism but treason. Take your guns and your racism and your conspiracy theories and go home.

[ Note: I’ll have Part 2 later this week. ]

Tom Limoncelli

Tom Limoncelli

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