Faced with an effective British blockade, fierce resistance from the British and French Armies, the entrance of the United States Army, political unrest and starvation at home, an economy in ruins, mutiny in the navy, and mounting defeats on the battlefield, the German Generals requested armistice negotiations with the Allies in November of 1918.
Under the terms of the armistice, the German Army was allowed to remain intact and was not forced to admit defeat by surrendering. U.S. General John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing had misgivings about this, saying it would be better to have the German Generals Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff admit defeat so there could be no doubt. The French and British were convinced however that Germany would not be a threat again.
The failure to force the German General Staff to admit defeat would have a huge impact on the future of Germany. Although the army was later reduced in size, its impact would be felt after the war as a political force dedicated to German nationalism, not democracy.
The German General Staff also would support the false idea that the army had not been defeated on the battlefield, but could have fought on to victory, except for being betrayed at home, the infamous ‘Stab in the Back’ theory.
This ‘Stab in the Back’ theory would become hugely popular among many Germans who found it impossible to swallow defeat. During the war, Adolf Hitler became obsessed with this idea, especially laying blame on Jews and Marxists in Germany for undermining the war effort. To Hitler, and so many others, the German politicians who signed the armistice on November 11, 1918, would become known as the ‘November Criminals.’