The Stab-in-the-Back Myth

This poster exhorts Germans to remember the three most prominent communist revolutionaries killed during German Revolution. The banner reads: 'Comrades, commemorate the martyrs of German Freedom!'

Source:  Monacensia, Literaturarchiv und Bibliothek, München.

In May of 1924 the Social Democratic Party published this reproduction of a right-wing cartoon in their party newspaper. The original cartoon instructed 'Germans, think thereon!' The figures depicted as backstabbers are Social Democratic leader Philip Scheidemann who declared the Weimar Republic in late 1918 as well as Matthias Erzberberger who signed the November 11th armistice which ended the fighting in the First World War. Source: Rainer Sammet, "Dolchstoss:" Deutschland und die Auseinandersetzung mit der Niederlage im Ersten Weltkrieg (1918-1933) (Berlin, Trafo, 2003).

This newspaper cartoon appeared in the "Red Tribune" a newspaper of the German Communist Party on 11/9/1925. In it the former president of the Republic Friedrich is shown stabbing the 'Revolutionary Worker' in the back. This cartoon illustrates well the idea that each political party in the Weimar utilized a unique version of the stab-in-the-back myth. In this case Ebert is shown to be 'betraying' the revolution. Source: Rainer Sammet, "Dolchstoss:" Deutschland und die Auseinandersetzung mit der Niederlage im Ersten Weltkrieg (1918-1933) (Berlin, Trafo, 2003).

This graphic depiction of the stab-in-the-back myth appeared in the Wiener Arbeiter-Zeitung in 1919. Note the use of the same common motifs of a dagger and an unsuspecting soldier. Also note the androgynous portrayal of the 'Jewish figure.' Source: Rainer Sammet, "Dolchstoss:" Deutschland und die Auseinandersetzung mit der Niederlage im Ersten Weltkrieg (1918-1933) (Berlin, Trafo, 2003).

Sketch by a Korvettenkapitän Erhardt, undated, in his diary, during the war.
The Reichstag as a serpent. The text translates as: God protect us from our political representatives. We will protect ourselves from our outside enemies. Source: Rainer Sammet, "Dolchstoss:" Deutschland und die Auseinandersetzung mit der Niederlage im Ersten Weltkrieg (1918-1933) (Berlin, Trafo, 2003).

This poster demonstrates that before the end of the war in October 1918 some British cartoonists were concerned with labor union agitation causing a loss of the conflict. Notice the usage of the stab-in-the-back motif through the illustration of a dagger in the labor activists hand. From the British satirical periodical "Punch."  Source: Rainer Sammet, "Dolchstoss:" Deutschland und die Auseinandersetzung mit der Niederlage im Ersten Weltkrieg (1918-1933) (Berlin, Trafo, 2003).


1942 Nazi antisemitic cartoon (from a Nazi educational periodical Der Schulungsbrief of the Nazi Party and German Labor Front). Note its publication was during the invasion of Russia with the intent of warning Germans of the dangers of the "Jewish-Bolshevik Conspiracy."

On this page we have displayed political posters and cartoons which we did not have room to display in the reader.