The commonly perpetuated symbol of a tragic hero, or the protagonist who eventually succumbs to downfall, whether due to a judgement error or external circumstances, captured the mindset of some of the german population in the late days of the war. While talks of revolution and riots called for an end to the war, the actual cease-fire caused much distress to German pride as they did not feel like they faced defeat heroically. Attempts to raise the morale of the returning soldiers by proclaiming that they were, “undefeated on the field of battle,” backfired and caused the German people to feel more ashamed of pulling out of the war. The phrase became synonymous to “[facing] capitulation without a struggle,” which held no honor.
Officials of the state had an especially bruised pride and sought to reclaim glory by falling to a “heroic death”. Schivelbusch explains two ideas proposed to restore honor to Germany’s military. One strategy involved Kaiser Wilhelm II sacrificing himself on the front line, surrounded by soldiers and officers in one last battle. This romanticized mission would in theory rouse the German people to do the same. Another strategy planned to send the German naval fleet on a suicide mission to meet the superior British navy in one final battle. In the end, the sailors rioted against the whimsical plan and masses of German people rioted against the state instead of taking up arms to restore its glory. Furthermore, the emperor fled Germany at night and military leader Ludendorff ran to Sweden, increasing the feeling of cowardliness.
Germany fell into a dangerous blame game on why they lost the war in the first place in a desperate attempt to save face. It gave rise to the myth that Germany was “stabbed in the back” by the revolution at the home front. Would a final fight to the death have restored the German psyche? Chances are that the unrest at home was so severe that it would not have appeased the population. There was already calls for soldiers to abandon their posts during the war. Peace with victory was so out of reach that the previously inflated egos of the German people were too far gone.