Epp, Heinrich H. (1873-1938)

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Heinrich H. Epp, teacher: born 9 May 1873 in Chortitza, Chortitza Colony, South Russia, the eldest of three children of Heinrich Epp (1827-1896) and his second wife, Elisabeth (Perk) Lepp (1830-1904). His father had six children from his first marriage to Anna Siemens (1831-1863). Heinrich was married for the first time on 5 September 1896 to Helena Koop (13 October 1873, Chortitza, Chortitza Colony – 13 February 1920, Chortitza, Chortitza Colony), daughter of Abraham Jacob Koop (1838-1920) and Katharina (Paetkau) Koop (1839-1910). Their children were: Katharina, Liese, Helena, and Heinrich. After Helena's death from typhoid fever, Heinrich was married for the second time in 1920 to Agnes Klaassen (25 March 1883, Rosenthal, Chortitza Colony – 3 June 1974, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), daughter of Jacob Klaassen (1847-1919) and Agnes (Sudermann) Klaassen (1850-1934). They had two children: Agnes, and Ernst (killed in 1945 while serving in the German Army). Heinrich died 11 January 1938 in the USSR.

Upon completion of the Zentralschule he attended the Gymnasium in Ekaterinoslav two years, and completed the work for his A.B. degree in history and philology at the University of Moscow in 1900. He then became a teacher in the Chortitza Zentralschule and devoted his entire life and work to it. In 1905, when A. A. Neufeld withdrew, he became the principal of the school and gave instruction in the field of education in the teacher-training program operated in connection with the Zentralschule. These courses were taught much better here than in the corresponding Russia schools, for Epp kept himself informed on the new pedagogical currents. He equipped the Zentralschule library, which had been begun by Neufeld, with all the newer books. He stimulated in his students a desire for further education, thus producing a stream of ambitious young teachers for the Mennonite elementary schools. He used to say that good elementary schools were of greater value than good secondary schools or universities. He therefore declined the proposal made to him by some prominent persons to establish an intermediate school. His ideal was a three-year normal school in addition to the Zentralschule to offer all the courses of value to elementary teachers. Thanks to his efforts, such a school was opened in 1913. But the curriculum he had planned was reduced by the government, since it surpassed that of the government-operated schools. After the Revolution, persistent unrest made it impossible to introduce these courses.

As chairman of the Chortitza Teacher's Association Epp conducted the monthly and annual meetings; his influence was the more deeply felt since most of the teachers had once been his students. He was appointed inspector of the final examinations of the elementary schools, thus acquiring direct influence on their instruction, and since he was also chairman of the committee in charge of the final examination of the Zentralschule, he was able to unify the system from the elementary schools through the Zentralschule and the educational courses.

In 1920, when the new government tried to remodel the Russian educational system on the Western plan, the Russian teachers were frustrated. But Epp, aware of Western currents, was able to lecture at home and in other German colonies and to reconstruct his curriculum along the new lines. The commissariat for elementary education recognized Epp's contribution and gave him the title of "professor" which was ordinarily reserved for teachers at the universities, with a suitable salary.

Epp participated in all movements for the common welfare. Like his father, he was authorized by the Chortitza Mennonites to represent their causes to the governments. In 1919 he resigned from the leadership of the school and representation to the government in favor of his younger brother and colleague, Dietrich H. Epp. However, he remained as a teacher and the soul of the institution. When the Soviet government approached him with the question "Do you believe in God?" and he replied affirmatively, he had to withdraw from the school in 1929. After 29 years of devoted and fruitful service, he left this Mennonite school, which was then fitted into the communistic pattern.

In 1925 Epp's students and colleagues celebrated the 25th anniversary of his successful work. His wish and hope to spend the closing years of his life in peace was not to be fulfilled. In the mass evacuation of intellectuals from the Ukraine in 1937, Heinrich Epp was also arrested on 8 September 1937 by the Zaporozhie City Division of the Narodnyy komissariat vnutrennikh del (NKVD) and without benefit of trial sent away. Since these exiles were not permitted contact with their families, nothing more was heard of him. It was later learned that he was executed on 11 January 1938. His wife Agnes was able to immigrate to Canada in July 1948 along with daughters Katharina and Agnes.


Der Bote (25 Jun 1974): 7.

GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 4.19 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2005.

Author(s) Dietrich H. Epp
Richard D. Thiessen
Date Published July 2006

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MLA style

Epp, Dietrich H. and Richard D. Thiessen. "Epp, Heinrich H. (1873-1938)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. July 2006. Web. 21 Apr 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Epp,_Heinrich_H._(1873-1938)&oldid=143047.

APA style

Epp, Dietrich H. and Richard D. Thiessen. (July 2006). Epp, Heinrich H. (1873-1938). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 April 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Epp,_Heinrich_H._(1873-1938)&oldid=143047.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 236-237. All rights reserved.

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