November 11th, 1918. The Armistice is signed between the defeated Germany and the victorious Allied Powers (minus Russia, of course – the latter lost its war with the Central powers).
By that time, the military situation for Germany was already absolutely hopeless – it was abandoned by all its allies who have signed their armistices with the Allied powers. And thus had to fight the overwhelming forces of their enemies alone. Which was, obviously, a military suicide.
Bulgaria was the first to acknowledge its defeat and to sue for peace. It signed the Armistice of Salonica on September 29th, 1918. Knowing that the “domino effect” was inevitable, on the very same day (right after the news of this betrayal – let’s call a spade a spade) became public, the German Supreme Army Command informed Kaiser Wilhelm II and the Imperial Chancellor Count Georg von Hertling, that the military situation facing Germany was hopeless. Cut and dry, plain and simple, loud and clear.
Exactly one month later – on October 30th – another German ally (the Ottoman Empire) capitulated, signing the Armistice of Mudros (the harbor on the Greek island of Lemnos).
A week before that, on October 24th, the Italian Army (yes, in the First World War Italy fought on the side of the Allies against Germany – and so did Japan) began an offensive that culminated in the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, which marked the end of the Austro-Hungarian Army as an effective fighting force – and triggered the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
During the last week of October, declarations of independence were made in Budapest, Prague, and Zagreb. On October 29th, the day before the Ottoman Empire capitulated, the Austro-Hungarian government asked Italy for an armistice.
The armistice was signed on November 3rd, in the small town of Villa Giusti, near the Italian city of Padua. Austria and Hungary signed separate armistices as by that time the Habsburg Monarchy (and thus the Austro-Hungarian Empire) ceased to exist.
Betrayed by all of its allies (which was caused by the hopeless situation that each one of them faced due to the decisive military successes of the Allied armies), the Imperial Germany had no other choice but to ask its adversaries (Britain, France and the USA) for an armistice.
Which was signed on 11 November, at 5:00 am, in the Compiègne forest. At 11 am on 11 November 1918—”the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”—a ceasefire came into effect. The Great War was finally over.
For Adolf Hitler – and many thousands of his comrades-in-arms – all of this was simply inconceivable. He could not comprehend how his beloved (and seemingly all but almighty) Germany lost the Great War.
Especially given the indisputable fact that the German Army was, indeed, the best in the world; that it won the war on the Eastern Front; that not one enemy soldier ever set foot – and not a single shot exploded – on the German soil.
So he (and hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of his comrades-in-arms) predictably subscribed to the “stab-in-the-back” theory of how and why the German Empire lost the First World War.
This theory widely believed and promulgated in right-wing circles in Germany after 1918, stated that the German Army did not lose World War I on the battlefield but was instead betrayed by the civilians on the home front.
Namely, by the Jews (who had been blamed for any and all disasters for at least a millennium), the Marxists (i.e. the Social Democrats and other “cultural Bolsheviks”) and especially the republicans who overthrew the Hohenzollern monarchy and established the Weimar Republic (which the German right passionately hated).
Unlike in the October Revolution in Russia, in Germany the Jews did not play the key role in the November Revolution – it was a very much German project. However, the Weimar Constitution (i.e. the legal foundation of the Republic) was drafted by Hugo Preuß – a German lawyer and liberal politician… and a Jew.
Apparently, this fact was enough for Adolf Hitler and the Nazis to consider the November Revolution (and the whole Weimar Republic) an important part in the “global Jewish conspiracy” to destroy Germany, Europe and the whole Western civilization as they knew it. Which 23 years later led to catastrophic consequences for Jews in Greater Germany and on the German-occupied territories.
After Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, they made this legend an integral part of their official history of the Great War, portraying the Weimar Republic as the creation of the “November criminals” (Novemberverbrecher) who stabbed the nation in the back to seize political power.
The latter charge was true and correct, of course, as the primary objective of all “Weimar politicians” (actually, of every politician in every country) was to seize and maintain political power. Everything else is secondary – and usually but a means to this end (ironically, Adolf Hitler was one of the very few exceptions).
However, the question of how and why Germany lost the Great War (especially after the decisive victory on the Eastern Front) is a very interesting one – and the answers turn out to be not as simple and straightforward as the “mainstream” historians want us to believe.
One reason for losing the Great War is crystal clear and painfully obvious: the German imperial government completely botched its relationship with the United States of America.
Instead of keeping the USA out of the Great War (which for German diplomats was a difficult – but not impossible – objective) they essentially forced (first and foremost, with a genuinely insane Zimmerman telegram) the American entry into the war on the Allied side. Which predictably tipped the scales in favor of the latter and led to the crushing defeat of the Central Powers.
Other key reasons boil down to the answer to the genuinely existential (for the Imperial Germany that is): “Did the Central Powers have the resources to win the Great War?”
There is still a lot of debate among historians on that issue. After carefully studying it for some time, I came to a firm conclusion that the only correct answer to this existential question is “Yes. Yes, the Central Powers did have enough resources to win the Great War – and were able to keep the United States out of it”.
Consequently, the Central Powers lost the Great War because the government of Imperial Germany – the informal leader of the former – did not find the way to use these resources efficiently enough to win the war.
Consequently, although the was a substantial opposition to the war in Germany (as it was the case in all nations that fought the Great War), the Central Powers lost the war not because of the mythical “stab-in-the-back” (aptly called in German Dolchstoßlegende – the “dagger stab myth”), but because of the insufficient competence of the German leadership in utilizing resources available to them.
Including, obviously, in motivating their human resources – and demotivating the human resources of their opponents. The Allied powers did a much better job on both counts which became one of their key success factors in the Great War.
Adolf Hitler did a far better job as the leader of the Third Reich… but only on three counts. He crushed all dissent and kept both his troops and his civilians highly motivated until the end of the Third Reich.
He also kept his soldiers and his civilians far better supplied than his predecessors in the Great War. However, to achieve that objective, he committed heinous war crimes – which was obviously out of the question for the Kaiser and his Imperial government.