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Franz Ritter von Epp
Reichsstatthalter of Bavaria

In office
Member of the Reichstag

In office
Personal details
Born (1868-10-16)16 October 1868
Munich, Kingdom of Bavaria
Died 31 December 1946(1946-12-31) (aged 78)
Munich, Germany
Resting place Munich Waldfriedhof
Nationality German
Political party BVP, from 1928 NSDAP
Religion Roman Catholicism

Franz Xaver Ritter von Epp (16 October 1868 – 31 December 1946) 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.


Military career

Franz Epp was born in Munich in 1868, the son of the painter Rudolph Epp and Katharina Streibel. He spent his school years in Augsburg 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 Namibia), where he took part in the bloody Herero and Namaqua Genocide.[1] During the First World War, he served as the commanding officer of a Bavarian regiment, the Infanterie-Leibregiment, in France, Serbia, Romania 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.[2] 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 Völkischer Beobachter,[3] which became the daily mouthpiece of the Nazi party.

As the Sturmabteilung 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.

Career in parliament

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

Reichskommissar of Bavaria

Epp's final notable historical action occurred on 9 March 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 Bavaria 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

Arrest and death

He was arrested on Paul Giesler's orders in 1945, being associated with the Freiheitsaktion Bayern, led by Rupprecht Gerngroß, a group opposed to the Nazis. Epp however did not want to be directly involved with the group as he considered their goal, surrender to the allies, a form of backstabbing of the German army.[4]

Suffering from a heart condition, he was hospitalized at Bad Nauheim at the end of the war. On 9 May 1945, a clerk at the hospital alerted agents from the US Counter Intelligence Corps that von Epp was a patient there, and he was arrested and sent to a prison camp in Munich to await trial at Nuremberg.[5] His health deteriorated due to anxiety and depression and he died in detention on 31 December 1946.[6]

Decorations and awards


Regarding personal names: Ritter is a title, translated approximately as Sir (denoting a Knight), not a first or middle name. There is no equivalent female form.

See also


  1. Genocide and Gross Human Rights Violations Google book review, author: Kurt Jonassohn, Karin Solveig Björnson, publisher: Transaction Publishers
  2. The unmaking of Adolf Hitler Google book review, author: Eugene Davidson publisher: University of Missouri Press
  3. Shirer, William L.: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, 1960
  4. Universitätsbibliothek Regensburg – Bosls bayrische Biographie – Franz Ritter von Epp, author: Karl Bosl, publisher: Pustet, pp. 179–180 (German)
  5. Larry Myers, Hey Nazis, I'm Coming for You: Memories of Counter Intelligence Corps Activities in World War II, Gainsway Press, Fullerton, CA 2004; pp. 329-333.
  6. "". Retrieved 2007-08-24. 


Further reading

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

External links

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