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Polish perspective of WW1: Germany, their Defeat & the Legend of the Stab in the Back


MarcinD 4 | 135    
2 Aug 2012  #1

I'll cut to the chase

As someone that has spent much time in Germany, I find it difficult to believe Germany would surrender under these circumstances:

"In November 1918 German armies were still French and Belgian territory, Berlin remained 450 miles from the nearest front, and the German armies retired from the field of battle in good order. Britain and France were too war-weary to contemplate an invasion of Germany. No Allied army had penetrated the western German frontier, and on the Eastern Front, Germany had already won the war against Russia, concluded with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. In the West, Germany had come close to winning the war with the Spring Offensive"

I guess the next question would be Americas entrance into the War. Was it truly just an opportunity to jump the pile (benefit) from a certain Allied victory? Did the intercepted Zimmerman Telegraph truly scare America of a German/Mexican alliance?

A view into Polish opinion at the time & what is taught in Polish schools about WW1 would be great. The numbers I have seen state nearly 10% of the Polish population was Jewish so maybe this information wasn't even known.

pawian 127 | 6,554    
2 Aug 2012  #2

Points to consider for you:

1. You forgot to develop that Stab in the Back theory.

2. Your quote starts with November 1918, and finishes with March-July 1918. Why such an order?

3. Spring offensive actually exhausted and weakened the German army, so talking about close winning it is senseless.

By late April 1918, the danger of a German breakthrough had passed. The German Army had suffered heavy casualties and now occupied ground of dubious value which would prove impossible to hold with the fewer manpower reserves now available. In August 1918, the Allies began a counter-offensive, using new artillery techniques and operational methods. The Hundred Days Offensive resulted in the Germans retreating or being driven from all of the ground taken in the Spring Offensive, the collapse of the Hindenburg line and the capitulation of the German Empire that November.

These are the most obvious issues, the rest are still too vague to start discussing them yet.
OP MarcinD 4 | 135    
2 Aug 2012  #3

- The Stab in the Back would be similar to Polish hard feelings towards their fellow Polish-Jews & how they in the simplest terms accepted Soviet Communism too easily. I'm not ready to jump straight to the Balfour Declaration

- I just don't see Germans accepting surrender under those circumstances. Unless we are led to believe Germany foolishly accepted a arms treaty & was truly screwed by the Allies as the age ole tale of kicking a dog while it's down.
Funky Samoan 2 | 181    
2 Aug 2012  #4

Pawian, You know the history of Polands western neighbour well! ;-)

- I just don't see Germans accepting surrender under those circumstances.

Marcin,

The Imperial German Supreme Army Command [Oberste Heeresleitung (OHL)] considered the war unwinable in November 1918. As Pawian pointed out all German war efforts at the Western Front in 1918 failed. The Americans managed to transport hundreds of thousands fresh soldiers to the front. Besides that hunger revolutions among German civilians in several major cities broke out and several mutinies in the Army began to emerge, the most well-known example for instance was the Kiel mutiny that developed rapidly in the November Revolution of 1918:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiel_mutiny

So it was the OHL with Hindenburg and Ludendorff that convinced Kaiser Wilhelm to surrender to the Western allies because they felt like they were sitting on a steam boiler that is going to explode soon. The same Ludendorff is one of the investors of the "Stab in the back" theory, by the way.

I never heard about Germans seeking an alliance with Mexico in 1918. Do you have any quotations for that? If this is true the Mexicans were wise not to follow such a trail because the Americans would have made minced meat out of them.
yehudi 1 | 434    
2 Aug 2012  #5

The Stab in the Back would be similar to Polish hard feelings towards their fellow Polish-Jews

If you can't explain Germany's defeat in rational terms, the obvious alternative is to blame the 1% of Germany's citizens that were Jews. Hitler found that a convincing argument, and he should know, he was a corporal.
Funky Samoan 2 | 181    
2 Aug 2012  #6

The disturbing fact is that German antisemites from the far right blamed German Jews to have contributed to German defeat, besides the fact that 100.000 German Jews fought for the German Empire, 12.000 of them died in action and an above average part of them - in comparison with Christian Germans - received various decorations for bravery like the Iron Cross.
Des Essientes 7 | 1,296    
2 Aug 2012  #7

I never heard about Germans seeking an alliance with Mexico in 1918. Do you have any quotations for that?

Here in the USA every public school student is taught about the Zimmermann Telegram as a major cause of the USA's entrance into the First World War. Here is its text:

"We intend to begin on the first of February unrestricted submarine warfare. We shall endeavor in spite of this to keep the United States of America neutral. In the event of this not succeeding, we make Mexico a proposal of alliance on the following basis: make war together, make peace...

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zimmermann_Telegram

I never heard about Germans seeking an alliance with Mexico in 1918.

The Zimmermann Telegram was sent in January of 1917.
Funky Samoan 2 | 181    
2 Aug 2012  #8

Here in the USA every public school student is taught about the Zimmermann Telegram as a major cause of the USA's entrance into the First World War. Here is its text:

Interesting! I really didn't know that. Thanks for helping to close this gap in education.
isthatu2 4 | 2,710    
2 Aug 2012  #9

If you can't explain Germany's defeat in rational terms

How about a complete naval blockade of germany and near starvation rations on the home front combined with anarchy on the streets and war weariness............stab in the FRONT fella :)

In the UK,school kids get told it was the Sinking of the Lusitania that brought the US into the war. Never really bought that.

Part no doubt was a growing America flexing its muscles on the world stage .
Some knock the US for its late entry in WW1.
Not me, the troops may have only actually fought for a few weeks but they suffered and died none the less and no doubt did add to germanys decision to seek a peace treaty.
Funky Samoan 2 | 181    
2 Aug 2012  #10

In the UK,school kids get told it was the Sinking of the Lusitania that brought the US into the war. Never really bought that.

That's what we learned in West Germany, too.
p3undone 8 | 1,151    
2 Aug 2012  #11

The Zimmerman telegram is actually quite laughable.
Des Essientes 7 | 1,296    
2 Aug 2012  #12

Did the intercepted Zimmerman Telegraph truly scare America of a German/Mexican alliance?

America obviously wasn't scared of a German/Mexican alliance because she decided to enter the war despite the telegraph's proposal. The telegraph's significance lies in the fact that the USA had a vigorous anti-war movement much of which had claimed that the Zimmermann Telegraph was a hoax devised by the British to draw the USA into the war against Germany. The inauthenticity of the telegram seemed quite plausible given the fact that it would be all but impossible for Mexico, who was in the midst of her own revolution, to retake Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico militarily given the advantages in population and mechanization that the USA possessed over her at the time. Thus the telegram's proposal looked crazy and it could easily be dismissed as a British attempt to tar the Germans as ridiculous warmongers ready to consign thousands of Mexicans to their deaths in an unwinnable war in order to divert some of the impending onslaught of doughboys away from Europe. When Arthur Zimmermann in March of 1917 admitted that the telegraph was indeed genuine then the antiwar movement in America was dealt a stiff blow because they then had to admit that the Germans were indeed crazy and/or cynical enough to propose such an action on the part of Mexico.

In the UK,school kids get told it was the Sinking of the Lusitania that brought the US into the war.

School children in the USA are also taught that the sinking of the Lusitania was a major cause for bringing the USA into the war and it certainly was, but the Zimmermann telegram was too. It should be seen as one of he greatest German diplomatic blunders in history as well as one of the greatest intelligence coups ever for the British Empire. If the Zimmermann telegram had never been sent, or never intercepted, then public opinion in the USA may never have turned against Germany enough for our elected politicians to feel secure to direct American troops to take the plunge into the bloody morass of the First World War, and Germany would have been able to end the war on much more favorable terms for herself than she did. If the Zimmermann Telegram was not a deliberate "stab in the back" by the German diplomatic corps against their own country then it was surely an inadvertent "shot in the foot".

One wonders why Zimmermann confirmed the telegram's authenticity when other German officials had been denying it. Did he do it out of an aversion to lying? That hardly seems likely in a diplomat. Did he really believe that the Mexicans would be foolish enough to attack the USA? If so then his attitude towards our Southern neighbors' intelligence was ridiculously misguided. Was he a deliberate backstabber?
pawian 127 | 6,554    
2 Aug 2012  #13

Here in the USA every public school student is taught about the Zimmermann Telegram as a major cause of the USA's entrance into the First World War. Here is its text:

In Polish schools I was taught that the impulse that pushed the USA into the European war against Germany was the sinking of Lusitania. Although it took place in 1915, it contributed to the change of attitude in American society.

The sinking turned public opinion in many countries against Germany, contributed to the American entry into World War I and became an iconic symbol in military recruiting campaigns of why the war was being fought.[5]
OP MarcinD 4 | 135    
3 Aug 2012  #14

There is a-lot of BS taught in schools about that time period. Even in US Colleges must of the general WW1 History taught is:
- Fernidad assassinated
- Every country joins to defend ally
- Trench warfare
- Germany lost
- Got really bad Treaty deal, must pay lots of $$$ & give up military
- Germany mad & secretly building military for attack
- Hate Jews because they have the $$$
- Attack Poland & kill more Jews

It's quite comical. After reading a little out of the book: ''Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World"

"debunks the theory that the financial burden placed on Germany as part of the war reparations was a major factor leading to Hitler's rise and WWII. Not only were the reparations significantly less than those Germany extracted from France after the 1870s Franco-Prussian War, but Germany never paid the WWI reparations and, indeed, indulged itself in such tactics as scuttling part of its navy rather than turn it over to Britain. On the other hand, she reinforces the argument that Germany did not feel compelled to accept terms of an agreement that were enforced rather than negotiated - and were determined to avenge the humiliation their representatives endured during the conference."

I'm going to argue it was ''peacemaking'' power gone drunk. Especially after the Polish Partitions, splitting up irresponsibility was the way. I'd have to argue that ultimately there were just not enough Jews in Germany at the time & there is not enough declassified information to buy into a globe wide Jewish-London-USA-Russia conspiracy or simply the German saying Dolchsto├člegende. Jews have fought on both sides of issues, I don't buy into a specific conspiracy about Jews maliciously creating Communism or the Bolsheviks hijacking the Russian Empire.

Sinking of the Lusitania was typical War propaganda at the time but many (just look at this thread) still don't know it occurred 2 years prior.
isthatu2 4 | 2,710    
3 Aug 2012  #15

Sinking of the Lusitania was typical War propaganda at the time but many (just look at this thread) still don't know it occurred 2 years prior.

Nothing anyone posted would back that up mate. I think I mentioned it first,along with saying it was a reason I never bought into.

The interesting aspect regarding WW1 Propaganda is just how much of it was either true then or complete BS but true in the next war....

But, back on track,any Polish people with the sort of family background Ive met seem to have had people on all sides during ww1. It certainly created Poland but is there a certain schizophrenia in remembering the actual war itself? Without the communists revolution chances are a post ww1 Russia would still have been in charge in Poland,and no doubt in charge of the german and austrian parts too.....
TRANS-ODER    
12 Feb 2018  #16

There was a polack named Kaminski threw a stone at a kraut named Orlowski
Square head! Dog face! Lutheran heathen! screamed Kaminski
Square head! Drunken peasant! Catholic stooge! snarled Orlowski
We are a nation of heroes! quipped Kaminski ... Anders, Kleeburg, Haller, Rommel and Beck to name but a few
Aha! Taunted Orlowski, they sure sound as German as my name, to me
Back and forth the stones flew, till a bridge was built, all sparkling and new
Here arethe signs at each end of the bridge ...eastern side WELCOME TO ROYAL PRUSSIA ...western side WELCOME TO GERMANIA SLAVICA
Lyzko 17 | 4,433    
12 Feb 2018  #17

Hitler parleyed the stab in the back legend into his rapid ascent to power! German aggression in Verdun, for instance, was in fact often excised from German school history books during the Reich. Anyone caught teaching same would of course run afoul of the regime and could easily lose their job, much less their life.



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