- In December 1918 Friedrich Ebert,* Germany's provisional Chancellor, greeted the returning German soldiers: "As you return unconquered from the field of battle, I salute you." Although the army had carefully fabricated the fiction since 1916 that German reversals were owed to civilian incompetence, Ebert's naïve statement provided the first serious component of a legend that Germany's military col-lapse had not preceded the revolution but was caused by it. First developed in a June 1919 pamphlet by Colonel Max Bauer, the notion gained wide publicity when it was asserted as part of Hindenburg's* 18 November 1919 testimony before the National Assembly's* Committee of Investigation; the Republic's future President observed that an "English general has said with justice, 'the German army was stabbed in the back.' " His remark ensued from a prior exchange between Karl Helfferich* and Oskar Cohn.* On 15 November the former Imperial State Secretary of the Interior refused to respond to a question put to him by Cohn, a committee member, on grounds that Cohn had accepted money from the Bolsheviks in order to organize the revolution while the army was engaged in its life-and-death struggle.Although it is wrong to suggest that discontent on the home front had no effect on battlefield morale, it was well known that the Supreme Command had demanded an armistice* six weeks before the November Revolution.* Yet, fol-lowing the committee's deliberations, the myth spread that the army had not been defeated in the field. Sensing that defeatism at home had caused Germany's collapse, many concluded that the revolution was the work of traitors. The Dolchstosslegende, attached as it was to the name of Hindenburg, became a cornerstone of rightist propaganda; those officers and men who embraced it never forgave the revolutionaries for their "betrayal of the fighting troops." The myth became a special albatross for Matthias Erzberger* and Friedrich Ebert,* resulting in the murder of the former and the early death of the latter. A so-called Dolchstoss Trial, held in Munich in November 1925, did little to clear the late Ebert's name.REFERENCES:Bonn, Wandering Scholar; Eyck, History of the Weimar Republic, vol. 1; Taddey, Lexikon; John Williamson, Karl Helfferich.
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.
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