Once WWI ended rumors began circulating that the German army had been “stabbed in the back” by politicians and civilians on the homefront. Hindenburg did his best to perpetuate such claims, although they are generally regarded to be untrue. After all, as we learned in Stibbe’s “The War from Below,” the homefront and fighting front were very connected, and the people’s cooperation was heavily relied upon to keep the movement strong. Hindenburg capitalized on this, claiming that German defeat was not because of the army, whose “achievements [were] just as admirable as those of the officer corps,” but because of the politicians who prevented the necessary discipline and legislation to be carried out.
Wolfradt, a Jewish German civilian had a different perspective. He was able to see through the rumors and claimed that German defeat was inevitable due to the lack of resources and organization (not the lack of civilian support). Wolfradt actually goes further and asserts that the home front was stabbed in the back by the German military. Instead of protecting Germany’s people, the military just used them to try to get what they wanted.
Although no one was literally stabbed in the back, the metaphor is a powerful one, and one that both Hindenburg and Wolfradt use it to make their respective points. Stabbing someone in the back is regarded as very deliberate, so in using this metaphor they both convey that the side doing the stabbing is fully to blame – that their actions were not accidental. Furthermore, Hindenburg draws comparisons to the story of Siegfried and Hagen, a Nibelungen myth. Since he and his generation were familiar with Nibelungen mythology, and the story is strongly associated with murder, similar to the way the story of Caesar and Brutus is synonymous with betrayal. This makes it easier for the German people to relate to the things he is saying. Both of them also use exclusionary “they” vs “us” words that clearly separate both sides that show just how divided the country was.