When reading the articles for this week, the quote “history is told by the victors” was the first thing that came to my mind. To me, this quote implies that every group or person has a different perspective on a given event, and different details to add to our telling of that event. The consensus interpretation of history comes from the groups with the most influence or power in society, who are able to control what is told and what’s not, in order to make their narrative convenient for them. This isn’t a discussion of the point of the quote itself. It’s not necessary that we label any version of history more valid than any other, but each telling and retelling of history adds something that we might have originally missed.
In Stibbe’s article, “The War From Below”, the concern is with the regular citizens of Germany, those on the homefront, who were affected just as deeply by the war as those who were in the trenches hundreds of miles away. Reading the piece makes one aware of the deep frustrations and feelings of neglect of the German people, as resources and attention were continuously being diverted to the frontlines. In contrast, Schivelbusch analyzes the perspective of the German leaders and elites, and the “culture of defeat” that took hold – the failure to properly gauge the mood of the public; the overemphasis on tactics and lack of political savvy; the need to compensate for the loss of honor. The revolution in 1918 came suddenly, seemingly without much warning for them, but when reading the Stibbe piece alongside, the danger signs become clearly illuminated. One might view the events that Stibbe details as a steady, ominous undercurrent; a storm on the verge of being unleashed, that remained hidden until it was too late for Germany.
In the immediate aftermath of the war, the slogan “Im Felde Umbesiegt”, or “Undefeated on the Field of Battle”, began to take hold. Germany did not surrender any territory or lose a decisive battle. By any measure, their fighting forces held their own. But this slogan could not solidify the new republic, as it begged the question: how did Germany lose the war? Abstract questions like this one have multiple answers, all of which may be correct in some way, and by analyzing the situation on the home front, we are given more potential answers. There’s no way to know anything for sure, but the least we can do is make sure we see as much of the whole picture as possible.