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Franz Ritter von Epp (16 October 1868 in Munichmarker – 31 December 1946 in Munich) was a regular officer in the Imperial German Army of the early part of the 20th century, who rose to the office of Reichsstatthalter of Bavaria, a position of dictatorial power, under the Nazis.


Franz Ritter von Epp was born in Munich in 1868, under the name of Franz Epp, being the son of the painter Rudolph Epp and Katharina Streibel. He spent his school years in Augsburgmarker and after this joined the military academy in Munich. He served as a volunteer in East Asia during the Boxer rebellion in 1900-01 and then became a company commander in the German colony Deutsch-Südwestafrika (now Namibiamarker), where he took part in the bloody crushing of the Herero rebellion. During the First World War, he served as the commanding officer of a Bavarian regiment, the Infanterie-Leibregiment, in Francemarker, Serbiamarker, Romaniamarker and at the Isonzo front.

For his war service, he received a large number of medals, the Pour le Mérite (29 May 1918) being the most prominent. He was also knighted, being made Ritter von Epp on 25 February 1918, and received the Bavarian Militär-Max Joseph-Orden (23 June 1916).

After the end of the war he formed the Freikorps Epp, a right-wing, paramilitary formation mostly made up of war veterans, of which future leader of the SA Ernst Röhm, was a member. It took part in the crushing of the Bavarian Soviet Republic in Munich, being responsible for various massacres. He joined the Reichswehr and was promoted to Generalmajor in 1922. He took his leave from the German army after getting involved with right-wing associations in 1923.

When it became necessary for the NSDAP to purchase a newspaper to publicize its political creed, Epp made available some 60,000 Reichsmarks from secret army funds to acquire the Völkische Beobachter, which would become the daily mouthpiece of the party.

As the SAmarker expanded, it became an armed band of several hundred thousand men, whose function was to protect and guard Nazi rallies and to disrupt those of other political parties. Some of its leaders, particularly Roehm, visualized the SA as supplanting the regular army when Hitler came to power. To this end a department was set up under Epp called the Wehrpolitisches Amt (Army political office). Nothing came of this, as the role of the SA was dramatically recast after the Night of the Long Knives.

Epp became a member of the German parliament, the Reichstag, for the NSDAP after leaving the BVP in 1928, holding this position until 1945. He served as the NSDAP's head of its Military-Political Office from 1928 to 1945, and later as leader of the German Colonial Society, an organization devout to regaining Germanys lost colonies.

Epp's final notable historical action occurred on March 9, 1933, two weeks before the Reichstag passed the enabling act which granted Adolf Hitler dictatorial powers. On the orders of Hitler and Wilhelm Frick he abolished the Government of Bavariamarker and set up a Nazi regime. He became Reichskommissar, later Reichsstatthalter, for Bavaria in 1933, in this position clashing with Bavaria's Nazi prime minister Ludwig Siebert, with Siebert eventually succeeding Epp. Epp's attempt to limit the influence of the central government into Bavarian politics failed. Epp however continued in his post as Reichsstatthalter until the end of the war, politically insignificant.

Franz von Epp opening a school for colonialism in 1938

He distanced himself somewhat from other Nazi leaders during the war, the main reason for this was however personal dislike of some of them. He did not question or disagree with the regimes's politics.

He was arrested on Paul Giesler's orders in 1945, being associated with the Freiheitsaktion Bayern, lead by Rupprecht Gerngroß, a group opposed to the Nazis. Epp however did not want to directly be involved with the group as he considered their goal, surrender to the allies, a form of backstabbing of the German army.

At the end of the war, he was imprisoned by the Americans and died in a prison camp in 1946.


See also

Further reading

  • Ein Leben für Deutschland (A life for Germany), Autobiography by Franz Ritter von Epp, Munich, 1939

External links



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