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Eric Hoepner
14 September 1886(1886-09-14) – 8 August 1944 (aged 57)
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1971-068-10, Erich Hoepner.jpg
Place of birth Frankfurt an der Oder, Brandenburg
Place of death Plötzensee Prison, Berlin, Germany
Allegiance German Empire German Empire (to 1918)
Germany Weimar Republic (to 1933)
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Heer
Years of service 1905 – 1942
Rank Generaloberst
Commands held Fourth Panzer Group
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Erich Hoepner (14 September 1886 – 8 August 1944) was a German general in World War II. A successful panzer leader, Hoepner was executed after the failed 20 July Plot in 1944.



Memorial plaque for Erich Hoepner and Henning von Tresckow in the Bundeshaus, Berlin.

Hoepner was born in Frankfurt an der Oder, Brandenburg. He joined the German Army as an officer cadet in 1905, was commissioned as a Lieutenant in 1906 and served as a cavalry officer during World War I, reaching the rank of Rittmeister.

He remained in the Reichswehr in the Weimar Republic and reached the rank of General in 1936. Hoepner was an early advocate of armoured warfare and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general and given command of the XVI Panzer Corps in 1938.

Hoepner, often called "Der Alte Reiter" (the old cavalryman), led forces in the invasions of Poland (1939) and France (1940), receiving the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. He was promoted to the rank of colonel-general in 1941 and given command of the Fourth Panzer Group) for the invasion of the Soviet Union.

Hoepner at the Volksgerichtshof

Hoepner pulled back his forces in the face of the massive Russian counteroffensive at Moscow in January 1942 and was relieved of his command by Hitler, dismissed from the Wehrmacht and stripped of his decorations and pension rights. He then launched a successful legal action against the government for the restoration of his pension.

While Hoepner was opposed to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, he was also an early opponent of Adolf Hitler's rise to power, and he participated in several conspiracies to overthrow Hitler. In the September, 1938, attempt, at the time of the Munich Conference, Hoepner's forces were assigned the task of suppressing the SS following the planned capture and intended shooting of Hitler in the act of "resisting arrest"; the plot collapsed, due to the capitulation by Chamberlain (which completely undercut the basis for the coup), and Hoepner's role went undiscovered.

Hoepner played an active part in the earliest conspiracies against Hitler. Like other conservative resisters, Hoepner thought Hitler's strategic decisions would lead to the ruin of Germany, which was the motivation in the September 1938 plot and another in October-November 1939, after war had already begun - both involving the very top levels of the Abwehr and the High Command, the Oberkommando des Heeres, or OKH. Following the Fall of France, the fears that Hitler's expansionist policies would bring ruin upon Germany appeared to have been wrong, and Hoepner, like most opposition generals, even on the OKH, became less critical of Hitler. It was only after Operation Barbarossa had stalled at the gates of Moscow and his humiliating sacking by Hitler, that Hoepner became active again.

Hoepner was a participant in the 20 July Plot in 1944 and was present at the Bendlerblock (Headquarters of the Army) with General Friedrich Olbricht, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, Colonel Albrecht Mertz von Quirnheim and Lieutenant Werner von Haeften. Following the failure of their coup attempt he had a private conversation with General Friedrich Fromm and was not shot by firing squad with the others in the courtyard.

Having already been dismissed from the Wehrmacht in 1942, he was arrested that night and then tortured by the Gestapo, given a summary trial by the Volksgerichtshof and sentenced to death. He was hanged on 8 August, in Berlin's Plötzensee Prison.



  • Walther-Peer Fellgiebel (2000), Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939-1945. Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 3-7909-0284-5
  • Geralf Gemser, Darf eine Schule diesen Namen tragen? Zur Vorbildwirkung des Wehrmachtsgenerals Erich Hoepner [May a school be named after this man? On the exemplary effect of the armed forces general Erich Hoepner], German, Marburg 2005, ISBN 3-8288-8927-1

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Commander of Panzergruppe 4
15 February 1941 – 7 January 1942
Succeeded by
Generaloberst Richard Ruoff

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