Erich von Hoepner

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Erich von Hoepner (1886-1944) was a German military officer who served in WWI, Reichswehr and Wehrmacht, rising to the rank of Generaloberst as a tank and mobile warfare specialist. An anti-Nazi before 1933, he commanded Panzer forces into Poland and Russia, but was dismissed from command and the army, in 1942 for a tactical retreat against Hitler's orders. He was executed for participation in the 1944 assassination attempt against Hitler after an especially humiliating trial in the Peoples' Court.

Early anti-Nazi activities

While commanding an armored division in Thuringia, he was prepared to block SA troops moving against a possible 1938 coup against Hitler for attacking Czechoslovakia.[1]

Western Front

The SS Totenkopf Division reported to him in the Battle of France, but he thought little of it. When its commander, Theodor Eicke, said he had carried out an order reported that a certain order had been carried out, and in doing so "human life had counted for nothing," to which Hoepner said, "That's a butcher's outlook." [2].

Russian Front

He commanded a Panzer group, one of the striking forces for blitzkrieg, in Operation Barbarossa.

While an anti-Nazi, he appears to have been an antisemite and anti-Slav. The commander of Einsatzgruppe A, Franz Walter Stahlecker spoke of cordiality in their relations. Hoepner issued an order to his troops,

The war against the Soviet Union is the old struggle of the Germans against the Slavs, the warding off of the Jewish Bolshevism. No mercy should be shown towards the carriers of the present Russian Bolshevist system[3]

He described the invasion as "...the "old struggle of the Germanic peoples against Slavdom." [4]

20th of July Plot

He was deeply involved in the assassination plot, and Minister of War-designate had they installed the new government. Hoepner was at the Ersatzheer headquarters with Claus von Stauffenberg and the other officers shot the evening of the attempt by order of Friedrich Fromm, but asked to be kept alive so he could offer an active court defense.

Hoepner was denied a belt, suspenders, and properly fitting clothing for his trial, and was ridiculed for his appearance. He was later hanged.


  1. William Shirer (1960), The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Simon & Schuster, p. 375
  2. Heinz Hohn, The Order of the Death's Head - The Story of Hitler's SS, p.521, quoted by Gary Komar [1]
  3. Erich von Hoepner (2 May 1941), Hoepner's order to troops, Holocaust Research Project
  4. Theodore S. Hamerow, On the Road to the Wolf's Lair, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1997, p. 282, quoted by Gary Komar [2]