Talk:Stab-in-the-back myth

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Effect on World War II[edit]

I removed the following text. It looks like original research to me, and much of it is alternate-historical speculation. The request for a source went unmet for some time.

Some believe that the Allied policy of unconditional surrender in World War II was, in part, a response to the Dolchstosslegende. {{fact}} However, this ignores other dynamics of the policy, namely that the United States and the United Kingdom were concerned what would happen if they did not show solidarity with the Soviets and Stalin were to make a separate peace with Germany. Additionally, the decision for unconditional surrender was also an important step for the Allies to rally the public and commit them to the cause.

Still, in light of the situation that had developed in Germany after the World War I armistice, the concept of unconditional surrender was rather popular during World War II, especially amidst anti-German sentiment and the interpretation that the Germans needed to be "taught a lesson" in order to end perceptions of the German Army's invincibility.

In 1944, if Count Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators had succeeded in killing Hitler and ousting the Nazi government, there may have been a great deal of public pressure for the Allies to reverse such terms. Nevertheless, unconditional surrender and the Dolchstosslegende can be used to, at least partially, explain why the plot and others like it received no coordinated help from the Allies.

— Preceding unsigned comment added by Robert A West (talkcontribs) 2006-08-11

Hitlers Voters[edit]

"Der Dolchstoß is cited as an important factor in Adolf Hitler's later rise to power, as the Nazi Party grew its original political base largely from embittered World War I veterans"

Be careful with such statement unless you dont prove it. There are different souces showing who supported Hitler most. It werent classical conservatives. The "new" middle class was his main support.— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 2008-10-12


The quote, as given by William Manchester on p. 432 of "The Arms of Krupp," is "The Generalstab [general staff] was stabbed in the back!"— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 2006-07-01

Edit War[edit]

Considering the edit war (diff), it seems appropriate to discuss rather than carry it out in breech of the three revert rule. The above edit makes three changes:

1) Removing the word "enormous" from the description of the reparations imposed on Germany, as POV pushing
2) Removing the comment that German continued to pay First World War reparations following the ending of the Second World War
3) Amending the comment stating that Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles "forced Germany to accept complete responsibility for the hostilities."

Evidence in support of these changes:

1) The US Foreign Office (and supported by secondary sources) archive holds the note the German government sent to them suggesting they would pay 50 billion in reparations: (page 46). Secondary Sources highlight that the Reparation Commission, in 1921, established Germany had to pay 132 billion in reparations. However, of this sum Germany was only required to pay 50 billion. See Marks, Sally (September 1978), "The Myths of Reparations", Central European History (Cambridge University Press), Vol. 11 (No. 3): pp.231–255, JSTOR 4545835  , a widely quoted and respected piece of work. Most histories on the subject support this point. If Germany was required to pay a sum equal to what they had offered to pay, stating reparations were "enormous" is clearly POV pushing.
2) The Lausanne Conference of 1932 resulted in all reparations being halted. They were never resumed. As the following Time article highlights, reparations were not restarted after the Second World War rather Germany was required to pay off loans they had taken out during the inter-war period to pay reparations:,8599,2023140,00.html
3) The actual wording of Article 231 is available in many sources, and most handily here online. It does not state Germany has to accept complete responsibility for the war.

RegardsEnigmaMcmxc (talk) 07:11, 13 January 2014 (UTC)

Your edits are blatant POV-pushing contrary to every standard history of post World War I Europe and the causes of World War II. Any source you may be relying on is non-standard and unreliable. Your edits in other others push this same POV consistently, which is contrary to the collected wisdom of the majority of historians. Wikipedia is not the place to publicize your counter-historical viewpoint, I suggest you start a blog, or print posters or something. In the meantime, I am not going to allow you to misrepresent the standard history in this area, regardless of the consequences. BMK: Grouchy Realist (talk) 07:45, 13 January 2014 (UTC)

I've just protected the page for three days to stop the edit warring and encourage dispute resolution. I can probably help with checking contested journal sources (as long as they're online!) if that would be useful. Nick-D (talk) 07:46, 13 January 2014 (UTC)

(ec) Please do. My personal library is currently sitting in 100+ boxes behind my sofa, awating the arrive of bookcases to put them in, so I cannot respond with specifics, but I am certain this editor's contributions are entirely contrary to the standard historical view of German WWI reparations. BMK: Grouchy Realist (talk) 07:53, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
I would ask Ken to address the three points raised in the initial posting here, rather than continue to rant...
It would also be nice for him to address how he believes how the actual wording of the Treaty of Versailles, the actual German offer to pay reparations as archived with the US State Department, Sally Marks (a well respected and quoted historian), A Reassessment after 75 Years - containing articles written by well established historians who are essentially the leading voices in the field - are not the "standard history" on the subject.
Nick, if needed, I can email you Mark's Myths of Reparations if you cannot access the full journal entry. In addition, I would suggest checking out Ken's recent sprout of petty vandalism to articles.EnigmaMcmxc (talk) 08:02, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
Petty vandalism, nothing. This editor is obviously here to push a specific POV, so I undid some of those POV edits. BMK: Grouchy Realist (talk) 08:11, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
So, Myths of Reparations is the source of this POV. A single paper which contradicts dozens of histories. I think we're dealing with a WP:FRINGE problem here. BMK: Grouchy Realist (talk) 08:11, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
Care to address points 2 and 3, or why you reverted the change in the text regarding them?
Sally Marks is not a Fringe theory, your counter to the removal of the POV pushing word "enormous". Marks was used to support "In addition, Germany was required to pay reparations for the civilian damage they had caused,[1]"
Do you deny that German was required to pay reparations following the war, or that reparations were confined to only civilian damages rather than military costs (article 232 of the TOV)? Although I concede that war pensions and widow allowances are also included, however that seemed beyond the scope of this article.
It is surprising that you think her work is contradicted by dozens of sources when she is one of the most quoted works on reparations. I would suggest you run a search and see how her work is neither a fringe theory on reparations and how she has inspired further discussion and research on the subject. Considering you state you have hundreds of books on the subject of the inter-war period, I am surprised at the apparent allegation that you have never heard of her. At any rate, practically any source on reparations could be used to highlight that the 1921 reparation commission figure of 132 billion gold marks is indeed complicated or that German offered to pay a sum of money equal to what she was required to pay. At any rate, Germany never paid the sum (50 billion or 132 billion).EnigmaMcmxc (talk) 08:29, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
I care to address nothing. You clearly based your POV on Sally Marks' article, and the rest is pure OR on your part. Again, as I said on your talk page, read WP:FRINGE, which covers your edits. If you had standard histories which buttressed yourviewpoint, I feel certain you'd have quoted them, but you have not, because they don't. Wikipedia doesn't exist for publicizing outre theories, it's an encyclopedia which reports what the majority of historians report - which is not what you espouse. BMK: Grouchy Realist (talk) 08:40, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
Thank you for confirming that you will not address the points raised. You have just confirmed that further discussion is useless, so I shall await an admin or third party to call this one. I would also ask them to look at the pattern of edits you have made over the last hour or so on unrelated articles (blatant vandalism to Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles, reverting what the source material states Liverpool Blitz, and petty reversions British war crimes) and on my talk page. Regards EnigmaMcmxc (talk) 08:46, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
I will address the points when you can point to a standard history that confirms your WP:FRINGE POV. BMK: Grouchy Realist (talk) 08:58, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
Would me checking sources be of any use here? I've looked at the Marks reference and it supports most of what is being cited to it (it doesn't appear to describe clause 231 as being the most important, though it does note that it lead to much debate in Germany and was of importance). BMK, what sources state that those journal articles are advancing a fringe POV? Google Scholar shows that the Marks article is still being cited in scholarly works [1], though the nature of such cites obviously isn't demonstrated (and 33 citations since 1978 isn't a huge number in a field such as this). Nick-D (talk) 09:55, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
Nick, every single reference work you'd care to look at will support the standard contention that the reparations required of Germany played havoc with their economy, contributed to the instability of the post WWI German government, contributed to the government's inability to deal with the rampant inflation which hit the country during the Great Depression, which contributed mightily to the rise of Hitler, who offered to the Germany people some sense of dignity after the ignominious terms of the Treaty of Versailles. I have no specific references to offer you, due to my particular circumstance (books in boxes, as described), but just go to any library or a Barnes & Noble and pick up a history of World War I which deals with the consequences of the post-war situation, or a history of World War II which details what led up to the war. Any of these texts will give you the standard history, agreed upon by the vast majority of historians, which will counter the very specific and and WP:FRINGE views of Sally Marks. BMK: Grouchy Realist (talk) 10:14, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
Is that relevant to the material in question here? [2]. I've also read fairly widely on this topic, and the particular statements which are being referenced to this journal article seem pretty unremarkable. Nick-D (talk) 10:27, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
Ken, am sorry, but what you are calling the standard view is half of a very complicated and still ongoing debate. There is no historical consensus that reparations caused inflation (which occurred prior to the Great Depression), and there is no consensus that inflation or reparation contributed mightily to the rise of Hitler.
For example, Erik Goldstein and Niall Ferguson argue - to use two examples, and both arguments sourced from A Reassessment after 75 - that reps played a role in hyperinflation. On the other hand, Gerhard Weinberg, Anthony Lentin, Sally Marks, and P.M.H Bell - to name a few - all state that they played little role in the issue and hyperinflation was solely caused by the German government. Iirc hyperinflation had ceased by the end of the decade, well before the rise in popularity for the Nazis. Adam Tooze argues that the Nazis were practically broke by this point.
In regards to the rise of Hitler, Louise Slavicek states that modern historical consensus is that the ToV did not cause the rise of the Nazis. Richard Evans, among others, blames the Great Depression for bringing about the rise of Hitler. Bell also highlights this, although he notes that some historians hold that the ToV caused a crises that in part resulted in their rise.
I could go on. It is simply not true that there is only one "standard" view. There is a standard outline, if you will, but the details of why things happened are argued differently by practically every historian (I could highlight the - off topic - case of AJP Taylor or Fritz Fischer whose findings about the First and Second World Wars sparked outrage and debate. They are still being argued about today, decades afterwards.).EnigmaMcmxc (talk) 10:38, 13 January 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── For this article, it is the immediately post-War perception in Germany that is more important than later re-assessments or de facto revisions of the Treaty of Versailles. Rather than use words like "enormous", perhaps we could write that the reparations were "billions of gold marks, which the Germans had no realistic chance of paying ". In an article about the effect of the perception of reparations immediately following World War (particularly in a section headed "1919") , I am not very happy about the statements relativizing the amount of reparations based on the situation in 1932; it gives the impression of a revisionist agenda. Reverting the comments about the situation in 1932 also solves the problem of the misleading reference Boemeke p.424, which if I understand the reference correctly, would be better attributed to Ferguson, i.e. it should read:

  • Ferguson, Niall (1998). "The Balance of Payments Question". In Boemeke, Manfred F.; Feldman, Gerald D.; Glaser, Elisabeth. Versailes: A Reassessment after 75 Years. Publications of the German Historical Institute. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-62132-8. 

But that might be read as implying that Ferguson (and/or the editors) agree with Marks's assessment. In my opinion, the proposed wording gives undue emphasis to the relativization of the reparations burden, as represented by the position of Sally Marks and Stephen Schuker. If we are citing Gerald Feldman, we should remember what he wrote in the cited book:

"Sally Marks, ever eager to defend the feasibility of the reparations settlement, appears cheerlessly resigned to the hopelessness of the cause in the real world of post-Versailles Europe" and "Indeed, apparently the only people who really believed that the Germans could fulfill their reparations obligations, the real obligations that is, . . . are some historians. I emphasize some historians because I simply do not agree when Marks says, 'The scholarly consensus now suggests that paying what was actually asked of it was within Germany's capacity.' Peter Krüger does not share this view; neither do I, and neither does Ferguson . . . "

As regards the "war guilt clause": we should, in the text, perhaps note how it was perceived and quote it in a footnote:

"The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies."

That should give readers the opportunity to assess whether that means that Germany and her allies accepted responsibility for all loss and damage and that Germany and her allies were the aggressors, who imposed the war on the Allies – and whether that explains the use of the term "war guilt".

As regards when reparations were finally paid: to avoid misleading the reader, we should perhaps state explicitly that some reparations were paid by issuing government debt secured by bonds, and that it was these bonds that were finally repaid in full in 2010.

See also the discussion at Talk:Treaty of Versailles#Assessment of the treaty. --Boson (talk) 19:07, 13 January 2014 (UTC)

I disagree on a few things:
"billions of gold marks, which the Germans had no realistic chance of paying"
The first half of the sentence would be find, as oppose to stating they were enormous. However, the second half is back into the realm of POV pushing. Per the discussion above, there is a massive debate on whether Germany could or could not pay and historians have sided with both side of the coin.
"But that might be read as implying that Ferguson (and/or the editors) agree with Marks's assessment. "
The page cited, is Ferguson confirming that reparations ceased in 1932 (as opposed to 1931 as currently stated in the article). It could be easily replace by practically any source on reparations that confirm they ended in 1932. On said page he also provides his information on what he calculated what the Germans eventually paid. I don't see how, given the wording I used, it could be shown as Ferguson agreeing or disagreeing with any one particular historian. The wording used in the article made no judgment: it merely stated Germany had to pay them, and that they ceased in 1932 rather than the current wording that implies they were resumed.
In regards to the war guilt question: considering the nature of the article it is perfectly fine to highlight what the Germans believed it meant: that would be vitally important. However, the article cannot right state - as it does now - that it meant something else. That is ahistorical and misleading the reader. The change of wording, as proposed, outlined what it meant and stated that the Germans believed differently.EnigmaMcmxc (talk) 21:05, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
I believe "which the Germans had no realistic chance of paying" is not POV pushing but a correct assessment of the mainstream view (and the sentence should probably be amended to state just that) with regard to the reparations demanded in the Treaty (i.e. the position in 1921) – with the possible exception of Marks and Schuker, though I'm not sure I could name a statement by either of them that unequivocally claims that Germany could have paid the amount actually stated in the Treaty. Marks does write ". . . paying what was actually asked of it was within Germany's financial capacity", but I think her "actually" means that it refers to some later and/or imagined , reduced demands. Blurring this may (or may not) be a deliberate tactic on the part of some historians. Are any (other) editors suggesting that the mainstream view was other than that the Germans could not begin to pay the reparation to the tune of billions of gold marks as demanded in the Treaty (not in 1932 or 1924!).
As regards Ferguson: that is the point about citing Ferguson on the 1932 issue. That further reparations ceased to be paid is not in dispute but has nothing to do with what was happening in the immediate post-War period being talked about. Mentioning it at all in the context of the perception of reparations immediately following the Treaty of Versailles gives the impression of strong bias in the sense of preemptively telling the reader not to attach importance to the first half of the sentence. It could be understood that Ferguson is cited as supporting the whole sentence, including the concessive conjunction "although", which relativizes the first half of the sentence, and including the word "abolished" (rather than "discontinued" or "ceased"), which is also problematic. In fact, Ferguson does not appear to share the view implied by the insertion of that sentence; he writes "the annuity demanded in 1921 put an intolerable strain on the state's finances". Perhaps we should replace your sentence with a paraphrase of what Ferguson wrote.
As regards the war guilt clause: your proposed change seems to leave out the bit about accepting that Germany and her allies were the aggressors, who imposed the war on the Allies. We should quote the Treaty article in its entirety. --Boson (talk) 00:17, 14 January 2014 (UTC)
I disagree on the assertion that the mainstream view is that reps were unpayable. For example, Diane Kunz states that the historical consensus is that that view has been debunked. At any rate, if they were payable or not is beyond the scope of this article. The article is about the stab in the back myth. Reparations played a role in the German sense of humiliation etc, that should be the primarily focus not on who agrees or disagrees with if they were lenient, heavy, payable or unpayable. Any source could have been used (not just the one I quickly picked) to highlight that reparations had ceased by 1932 (again not 1931 as the article currently states) and Ferguson does indeed note this. The article already highlights that reps ceased (although with the wrong date).
As for the war guilt issue, you again appear to be discussing information outside the scope of this article. I believe that, if the article is going to be mentioned, it should be done so to let the reader know what the Allied Powers intended it for and that it should then be contrasted with what the Germans thought it meant and how they felt about it. No one at the peace conference, or before hand - not even the German delegation - opposed the issue that the Central Powers were the aggressors(the 14 Points, the Lansing note, the German delegation comments at Versailles). The German beef was with the fact they believed they were being declared solely responsible. Again, that seems beyond the scope of the article, which - I believe - should attempt to focus on the German reaction rather than provide our own interpretation of what certain words in the clause mean.EnigmaMcmxc (talk) 03:59, 14 January 2014 (UTC)
I have some reservations about the new proposed wording, but I would prefer to wait for input from others before making an alternative proposal. --Boson (talk) 02:06, 16 January 2014 (UTC)
I would consider looking at the third section I have added below, as that could change the entire conversation from wording to inclusion.EnigmaMcmxc (talk) 06:22, 16 January 2014 (UTC)
Yes, I was first concentrating on the changes in 1932 and then thinking that the 1921 arrangements did not really belong, either. While trying to reformulate the paragraph, I was also coming to the conclusion that most or all of the treaty issues do not belong here. --Boson (talk) 14:00, 16 January 2014 (UTC)

Current wording[edit]

German popular reaction to the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 was highly negative. As a result of the Treaty, Germany's territory was reduced by about 13%, several million ethnic Germans came under foreign rule, even though they were the majority in many of those areas, the Rhineland was demilitarized and Allied troops occupied several areas (See Territorial changes after World War I). There were also enormous[citation needed] war reparations to be paid over a period of 70 years, although they ended in 1931[citation needed] (but were resumed after World War II[citation needed]). The most important aspect of the Treaty relating to the Dolchstoßlegende was the War Guilt Clause (Kriegsschuldklausel), which forced Germany to accept complete responsibility for the hostilities.[citation needed]

  • fact tags added to highlight disputed points

Proposed change[edit]

... Germany was also required to pay reparations for the damages they had caused during the war (Bell, p. 21; Marks, pp. 231–2). A major aspect of the treaty, in regards to Dolchstoßlegende,[citation needed] was Article 231, the so-called War Guilt Clause (Kriegsschuldfrage). The article served as a legal basis for the following articles of the reparations section of the treaty, which obliged Germany to pay compensation for the damage they had caused. The following articles of the treaty then limited German liability to civilian damages.(ToV, articles 231 and 232; Martel, p. 272; Marks, pp. 231-2) However, rather than being seen as a "clever attempt to limit actual German financial responsibility",(Boemeke, p. 524) the German people were outraged at what they saw as a national humiliation and Germany being unjustly punished (Binkley, p. 400; Morrow, p. 290). German politicians declared that the article was forcing Germany to accept full responsibility for the war (Binkley, p. 399; Craig, p. 141; Boemeke, p. 537–8).

  • fact tag inserted since a source is needed to establish the German anger at the Treaty of Versailles being directly related to the myth surrounding the German belief that they had won the war had they not been stabbed in the back by the "traitors" on the home front.


  • Bell, P.M.H. (1997) [1986]. The Origins of the Second World War in Europe
  • Binkley, Robert C.; Mahr, Dr. A. C. (June 1926), "A New Interpretation of the "Responsibility" Clause in the Versailles Treaty"
  • Boemeke (Editor), Manfred F.; Feldman (Editor), Gerald D. & Glaser (Editor), Elisabeth (1998). Versailes: A Reassessment after 75 Years.
  • Craig (Editor), Gordon Alexander & Gilbert (Editor), Felix (1994) [1953]. The Diplomats 1919–1939
  • Marks, Sally (September 1978), "The Myths of Reparations"
  • Martel, Gordon, ed. (2010). A Companion to Europe 1900-1945.
  • Morrow, The Great War: An Imperial History

Should a debate on the ToV even be in this article?[edit]

Per my comment, in the above section, that a source would be needed to link the notion that the war guilt issue was the most important part of the stab in the back myth (never mind the Treaty of Versailles as a whole) I have conducted a quick search on the subject. Using the search query "war guilt stab in the back", the below are a number of sources off the first page of Google Books.

The above sources clearly identify the stab in the back and war guilt as two very separate issues and not interlinked (with the exception of a German journalist at the time making a libel case - five years after the time period of the article section - against a politician who believed Germany was guilty). This raises the question - and at least demands further research (as I do not have the time to trawl through every page of Google books, at the moment, to see what additional sources state) - as to weather the entire second paragraph of the 1919 section should be even included in the article and perhaps invalidates the debate on wording per the initial section of this discussion.EnigmaMcmxc (talk) 06:22, 16 January 2014 (UTC)

I agree. I would be in favour of removing the whole paragraph. . . . without prejudice; if someone later showed that the term was also applied to politicians at home who did not vigorously oppose the terms of the Treaty, there might be a case for including something about the terms of the treaty, but that would probably be different from the current and proposed content. --Boson (talk) 13:52, 16 January 2014 (UTC)
Considering the lack of input from other editors, do the two of us - in agreement on the issue of removing the paragraph - constitute consensus?EnigmaMcmxc (talk) 21:06, 16 January 2014 (UTC)

Cite error: There are <ref> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist}} template (see the help page).