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Ernst Lerch

Last Update 18 June 2006

Ernst Lerch
Ernst Lerch
Ernst Lerch was born in Klagenfurt (Austria) on 19 November 1914.
He briefly studied at the Hochschule für Welthandel in Vienna. From 1931-34 he worked as a waiter in various hotels in Switzerland, France and Hungary to learn the hotel trade. On 1 December 1932 he joined the NSDAP (Party Number 1 327 396), on 1 March 1934 he became member oft the SS (SS Number 309 700).
From 1934 until the Anschluss (unification of Austria and Germany) in 1938 he was employed in his father's Café Lerch in Klagenfurt. The café became a meeting place for Carinthian illegal Nazis. Globocnik, Classen and Kaltenbrunner frequented it very often.
Still being in Austria, Lerch was promoted to SS-Untersturmführer on 9 September 1936 and SS-Obersturmführer in 1937. In 1938 he moved to Berlin, where he became SS-Hauptsturmführer in the Reich Security Directorate on 12 March 1938.
At his wedding to a Gestapo employee, Pohl and Globocnik acted as witnesses.
In December 1938, Lerch joined the Wehrmacht (German Army), and was involved in the Polish campaign as signals corporal, according to his testimony. From February 1940 until September 1941 he was employed at the RSHA in Berlin. Then he was appointed as Rasse- und Siedlungsführer in Krakow.
From 1941-1943 Lerch served in Lublin as chief of Globocnik's personal office and Stabsführer der Allgemeinen SS. On 21 July 1942 he was promoted to SS-Sturmbannführer. Lerch was one of the most important men of Aktion Reinhard, responsible for "Jewish affairs", the mass murder of the Jews in the Generalgouvernement. Amongst that he was responsible for the radio link between the Aktion Reinhard headquarters and Berlin. At the Worthoff (former Gestapo chief in Lublin) trial after the war, it was mentioned that Lerch had overseen the liquidation of thousands of Jews from the Majdan Tatarski ghetto in Lublin at the nearby Krepiec Forest.

When Aktion Reinhard was finished, Lerch was ordered to Italy in September 1943, together with most of the SS-men of Globocnik's staff. In Trieste he continued to serve as chief of Globocnik's personal staff in the OZAK (Operationszone Adriatisches Küstenland). He was still Globocnik’s right hand but had also military-related tasks, and was very much involved in anti-partisan operations. For a few weeks Lerch was provisional police commander in Fiume.

Trial in 1971
After the German surrender in Italy (May 1945), he fled to a region he knew very well: Carinthia (Southern Austria). There, at an alpine pasture (Möslacher Alm) near the Weissensee Lake, he was captured by a British commando on 31 May 1945, together with his comrades Globocnik, Höfle and Michalsen.

Being imprisoned in Wolfsberg he was interrogated by the English. He insisted on having spent just a short time in Lublin, and had nothing to do neither with Globocnik nor mass killings of Jews in Poland. Lerch could escape from prison and lived in hiding from 1947-50.

In 1960 Lerch was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment by a de-Nazification court in Wiesbaden (8JS 1145/60 StA Wiesbaden). In 1971 he was accused again of being involved in the Holocaust. The trial was held in Klagenfurt. His case was finally dropped on 11 May 1976 because Lerch denied having done anything in Poland, and because of lack of witnesses (LG Klagenfurt: 25VR 3123/71).
Until 1971 or 1972 he led a café in his home town Klagenfurt. Lerch died in 1997.

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