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Germany's sudden surrender at the end of the World War I, and anger at the loss of life and deprivations which the conflict had inflicted upon Germany, led many to search for scapegoats upon whom blame for the defeat could be placed. One theory, which has come to be known as the "Legend of the Stab in the Back," posited that Germany's war effort had been weakened from within by Communists and Jews on the home front. In November of 1919, then General Field Marshall Paul von Hindenburg attempted to exonerate himself and the German army as a whole by placing blame specifically on a Dolchstoss by troops stationed within Germany who joined soldiers' and sailors' unions during the Spartacist uprisings.

The effectivness of the Dolchstoss Meme stemmed from the manner in which it addressed the anger and confusion felt not only of the average German, but also by soldiers returning from the front. Many of these men, feeling detached from civilian society as a whole because of their experiences at the front, were only too willing to join the paramilitary Freikorps forming around Germany in an effort to exact some sort of revenge. Further, in blaming Jews and Communists, it blamed groups not thought of as purely German in origin. As such, the Dolchstoss quickly became a central image in propaganda produced by the many Volkische and traditionally conservative political parties that sprung up in the early days of the Weimar Republic. The Dolchstoss figured prominantly in propaganda produced by the National Socialist German Workers Party or NSDAP; indeed, one could argue that it is a key aspect of the National Socialist worldview.