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Consider this statement from a speech by Yegor Gaidar:

Historically, such myths have a dangerous precedent--namely, Germany between World War I and World War II. Then, the legend went that Germany was never defeated in the war, but "stabbed in the back" by the Jews and the Socialists. To some degree, the responsible party was the democratic German government, as it was unprepared to publish materials about what really happened before and after World War I.

  1. Is his rendition of the facts correct? That is - is it true that the democratic Weimar Governments declined to publish WWI documents which revealed that Germany was actually defeated?
  2. If yes, is there information why they took such an apparently illogical decision?
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Felix - I am your friend Vector of old - temporary name change. –  user2590 Jan 6 '14 at 22:28
@ComeAndGo Names come and go but friends persist :) –  Felix Goldberg Jan 6 '14 at 22:45
I'm never quite sure if I'm 'coming or going', so.... –  user2590 Jan 7 '14 at 1:09

1 Answer 1

The difficulty is that, by a suitably chosen narrow meaning of defeat: Destruction of the army in the field, loss of all conquered territory, or significant loss of hoe country areas, the German Army wasn't defeated. Here is a map that shows the Allied March to the Rhine after the Armistice; which thus shows that on Nov 11, 1918, the Germans still held all of Belgium east of the line Ghent-Maubeuge; significant French territory between Longwy and Metz; and all of Alsace-Lorraine.

Given adequate supply, logistical and reinforcement support from the home front, the German General Staff position that the war could have been continued is reasonable.

Of course, we know now that that assumption was invalid; the Allied blockade had had its desired effect, both the German economy and home-front morale were completely broken, and further continuance of the fighting was moot, leading only to an inevitable destiny; but the German army, and particularly its senior commanders, had been sheltered thus far from the privations of the populace.

It is thus a curious paradox, for which I cannot recall any earlier precedent in history, that while the German Nation had been utterly defeated, its Army had, in some sense at least, not been defeated.

Update: from here (my emphasis):

By mid-October Ludendorff and Hindenburg wanted to distance themselves from a negotiated settlement or surrender to Allied demands. Now politically powerless, Ludendorff favored what he could have done better had he not gambled on his offensive and ruined the moral and fighting strength of his troops: he was for fighting on the defensive – through 1919. He and the German admiralty insisted that submarine warfare continue. And on October 20, Hindenburg told Prince Max that his government should keep Germany fighting "for our honor to the very last man," and if this resulted in Germany breaking off negotiations with Wilson, claimed Hindenburg, so be it.

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I would argue that Carthage had been defeated even before Zama. Otherwise, a very good summary. –  Tom Au Dec 6 '13 at 14:23
Good comparison. I was going to disagree, and then thought better of it. –  Pieter Geerkens Dec 6 '13 at 14:27
These are points on which people can reasonably disagree. I'm glad you (and I) thought about it "both ways." –  Tom Au Dec 6 '13 at 14:45
I mean: was it really the German General Staff position that the war could have been continued? Did they submit such a document to the Kaiser or the Chancellor? Or a letter? Or something? (I am asking because I recall having read they they actually said to the Kaiser that they cannot fight any longer, given the situation with logistics and supply). –  Felix Goldberg Dec 6 '13 at 15:27
tl;dr: Germany did not surrender in WWI. Hence it was not defeated. It was an armistice. That's why in WWII the allies insisted that both Germany and Japan surrendered unconditionally. They weren't doing that mistake twice. –  Lennart Regebro Dec 7 '13 at 6:25

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