Losing party conspiracy theory blaming the Russians led to World War II
Has there ever been a time when a losing faction—surprised and shamed by an unexpected loss—refused to accept personal responsibility, and instead turned to congressional hearings, press battles with the president, street demonstrations, partisan-style prosecutions, and accusations of treasonous Russian collusion to explain their loss? And what happened when that explanation proved false?There is much more and it points out how dangerous the current situation is with Democrats refusing to come to grips with their loss of an election and looking for scapegoats.
The place and time were Weimar Germany, following the events of World War I. The theory was the “Dolchstoßlegende,” or the “stab in the back” myth. The results were a disaster for all.
The Armistice to end World War I took effect on November 11, 1918, and unlike the Second World War, the Germans did not unconditionally surrender in the smoking ruins of Berlin. In November 1918, the German troops were still in the field, 450 miles away from Berlin. Russia had withdrawn from the war not long before. Due to press censorship, many citizens in Germany had no notion that their nation was losing.
“The purpose of myth is to provide a logical mode capable of overcoming a contradiction,” one reviewer of the period has written, citing Claude Levi-Strauss. As the reality of German defeat took hold, there was a search for explanations and scapegoats to explain it.
The historical consensus today is that Germany did lose militarily; that the military situation had become untenable. Most importantly, America had entered the war against Germany in April 1917 and was pouring in fresh troops and supplies at an accelerating rate. By the time the war ended, more than four million “Doughboys” had served in the US Army, about half overseas, and the Americans were fighting more bravely and harder than the German high command had expected. Germany had launched a major assault in early 1918 to win the war before the Americans fully arrived, but that attack had failed. Desertions of German soldiers had become rampant. Austria, Turkey and other German allies had sued for peace before the November armistice. The Armistice reflected the reality on the field.
The German military leaders refused to accept responsibility for the loss, however. Soon, they set the “Dolchstoßlegende” into full flame at public hearings at the Reichstag.