Front Page Titles (by Subject) 4.: The Stab in the Back - Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War
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4.: The “Stab in the Back” - Ludwig von Mises, Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War 
Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War, edited with a Foreword by Bettina Bien Greaves (Indianapolis: Indiana, 2011).
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The “Stab in the Back”
The end of the first World War glaringly exposed the nucleus of German nationalism’s dogma. Ludendorff, idol of the nationalists, himself had to confess that the war was lost, that the Reich had suffered a crushing defeat. The news of this failure was not anticipated by the nation. For more than four years the government had told the credulous people that Germany was victorious. It was beyond doubt that the German armies had occupied almost the whole territory of Belgium and several departments of France, while the Allied armies held only a few square miles of the Reich’s territory. German armies had conquered Brussels, Warsaw, Belgrade, and Bucharest. Russia and Rumania had been forced to sign peace treaties dictated by Germany. Look at the map, said the German statesmen, if you want to see who is victorious. The British Navy, they boasted, had been swept from the North Sea and was creeping into port; the British Merchant Marine was an easy prey for German U-boats. The English were starving. The citizens of London could not sleep for fear of Zeppelins. America was not in a position to save the Allies; the Americans had no army, and if they had had, they would have lacked the ships to send it to Europe. The German generals had given proof of ingenuity: Hindenburg, Ludendorff, and Mackensen were equal to the most famous leaders of the past; and in the German armed forces everybody was a hero, above all the intrepid pilots and the unflinching crews of the submarines.
And now, the collapse! Something horrible and ghastly had happened, for which the only explanation could be treason. Once again a traitor had ambushed the victor from a safely hidden corner. Once again Hagen had murdered Siegfried. The victorious army had been stabbed in the back. While the German men were fighting the enemy, domestic foes had stirred up the people at home to rise in the November rebellion, that most infamous crime of the ages. Not the front but the hinterland had failed. The culprits were neither the soldiers nor the generals but the weaklings of the civil government and of the Reichstag who failed to curb the rebellion.
Shame and contrition for the events of November, 1918, were the greater with aristocrats, officers, and nationalist notables because they had behaved in those days in a way that they themselves very soon were bound to regard as scandalous. Several officers on battleships had tried to stop the mutineers, but almost all other officers had bowed to the revolution. Twenty-two German thrones were smashed without any attempt at resistance. Court dignitaries, adjutants, orderly officers, and bodyguards quietly acquiesced when the princes to whom they had sworn oaths of personal allegiance unto death were dethroned. The example once set by the Swiss Guards who died for Louis XVI and his consort was not imitated. There was not a trace of the Fatherland party and of the nationalists when the masses assaulted the castles of the various kings and dukes.
It was salvation for the self-esteem of all these disheartened souls when some generals and nationalist leaders found a justification and an excuse: it had been the work of the Jews. Germany was victorious by land and sea and air, but the Jews had stabbed the victorious forces in the back. Whoever ventured to refute this legend was himself denounced as a Jew or a bribed servant of the Jews. No rational argument could shake the legend. It has been picked to pieces; each of its points has been disproved by documentary evidence; an overwhelming mass of material has been brought to its refutation—in vain.
It must be realized that German nationalism managed to survive the defeat of the first World War only by means of the legend of the stab in the back. Without it the nationalists would have been forced to drop their program, which was founded wholly on the thesis of Germany’s military superiority. In order to maintain this program it was indispensable to be able to tell the nation: “We have given new proof of our invincibility. But our victories did not bring us success because the Jews have sabotaged the country. If we eliminate the Jews, our victories will bring their due reward.”
Up to that time anti-Semitism had played but a small role in the structure of the doctrines of German nationalism. It was mere byplay, not a political issue. The endeavors to discriminate against the Jews stemmed from interventionism, as did nationalism. But they had no vital part in the system of German political nationalism. Now anti-Semitism became the focal point of the nationalist creed, its main issue. That was its meaning in domestic politics. And very soon it acquired an equal importance in foreign affairs.