This page will not display properly in your browser. Internet Explorer officially went out of support in June 2022. If you're using a screen reader such as JAWS, please feel free to continue. Otherwise, please consider using another browser.
View all events before 1933

November 18,1919

Hindenburg Spreads “Stab-in-the-Back” Myth

After World War I, German military leaders tried shifting the blame for the country’s defeat. During the war, they had kept the truth about the collapsing military situation from the population. Further, many Germans did not want to believe that the German military had been defeated. A myth soon began to spread that German forces could have won if they had not been “stabbed in the back” by disloyal German citizens who had undermined the war effort. 

German military leaders helped spread this false idea. Among them were Erich Ludendorff and Paul von Hindenburg. On November 18, 1919, Hindenburg testified in front of a parliamentary committee that was investigating the causes of the German defeat. He claimed that revolutionary forces had sabotaged the German military and caused its collapse. Many Germans accepted the idea that this made the Weimar Republic and the Treaty of Versailles illegitimate. The Nazi Party and other right wing groups used the widespread “stab-in-the-back” myth to exploit German nationalist feelings and to attack the Weimar Republic. They also used the myth to target socialists, communists, and Jewish people for supposedly undermining the German military.

Thank you for supporting our work

We would like to thank Crown Family Philanthropies and the Abe and Ida Cooper Foundation for supporting the ongoing work to create content and resources for the Holocaust Encyclopedia. View the list of all donors.