Macrohistory Seminar – Christoph Koenig (University of Bristol) Stabs in the Back – Veterans, Propaganda and the Fate of Weimar Democracy

Event details

  • | Thursday, November 29
  • 12:15 PM
  • Kaiserplatz 7-9, 4th floor, Room 4.006
Stabs in the Back – Veterans, Propaganda and the Fate of Weimar Democracy by Christoph Koenig.

I study the effect of war participation on the rise of right-wing parties in Interwar Germany. After the democratisation and surrender of the German Empire in 1918, 8m German WW1 soldiers were demobilised. Anecdotally, these veterans have often been linked to facilitating the reversion to autocratic rule in 1933. This paper argues that propaganda during war service played a crucial role in turning especially working-class soldiers into supporters of the right-wing. In order to quantify this effect, I construct the first disaggregated estimates of German WWI veterans since official army records were destroyed. I combine this data with a new panel of voting results from 1893 to 1933. Diff-in-Diff estimates show that war participation indeed moved votes from left- to right-wing while leaving Centrist parties unaffected. A one standard deviation increase in veteran inflow shifted vote shares to the right by 1.4 percentage points. In line with indoctrination, the effect of veterans on voting is highly persistent and strongest in working-class areas and among young soldiers. Using variation in access to independent news and a shift in censorship of soldier newspapers, I provide suggestive evidence for an important role of army propaganda in shaping soldiers’ political references.

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