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Ernst Lerch

(1914 – 1997)

Ernst Lerch was born on November 19, 1914, in Klagenfurt, Austria. He briefly studied at the Hochschule für Welthandel in Vienna. From 1931 to 1934, Lerch learned the hotel trade by working as a waiter in various hotels in Switzerland, France and Hungary. On December 1, 1932, Lerch joined the Nazi Party and, on March 1, 1934, he became a member of the SS.

From 1934 until the unification of Austria and Germany (Anschluss) in 1938, Lerch was employed in his father's Café Lerch. The café, located in Klagenfurt, became a meeting place for Nazis such as Odilo Globocnik and Ernst Kaltenbrunner, who frequented the café. In 1938, Lerch moved to Berlin and became an SS-Captain (Hauptsturmführer) in the Reich Security Directorate.

In December 1938, Lerch joined the German Army and was involved in the 1939 Polish Campaign as a signals corporal. From February 1940 until September 1941, Lerch was employed at the Reich Security Main Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt, RSHA) in Berlin. Then he was put in charge of “Race and Settlement” in Kracow.

From 1941-43, Lerch served in Lublin as chief of Odilo Globocnik’s personal office and the staff person responsible for the radio link between the Operation Reinhard (Aktion Reinhard) headquarters and Berlin. On July 21, 1942, he was promoted to SS-Sturmbannführer (major). At the trial of Hermann Worthoff (former Gestapo chief in Lublin) after the war, Lerch was mentioned as having overseen the murder of thousands of Jews from the Majdan Tatarski ghetto in Lublin at the nearby Krepiec Forest.

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

After the German surrender in Italy (May 1, 1945), Lerch fled to Carinthia (Southern Austria), a region he knew very well. On May 31, 1945, he was captured with his comrades Globocnik, Hermann Höfle, and Georg Michalsen by a British commando at an alpine pasture (Möslacher Alm) near the Weissensee Lake.

Lerch was interrogated by the British in Wolfsberg detention center and insisted he had spent just a short time in Lublin, and had nothing to do either with Globocnik or the mass killings of Jews in Poland. Lerch escaped from prison and lived in hiding from 1947 to 1950. He was captured again in 1950.

In 1960, Lerch was sentenced to two years in prison by a de-Nazification court in Wiesbaden. In 1971, he was accused again of being involved in the Holocaust. A trial was held in Klagenfurt, but the case was dropped on May 11, 1976, for lack of witnesses to counter Lerch’s claims of innocence.

Source: “Ernst Lerch,” Wikipedia.