Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
Ernst Lerch was born in Klagenfurt Austria on 19 November 1914. According to his initial British interrogation report, he was educated in Klagenfurt and briefly studied at the Hochschule fur Welthandel in Vienna.
From 1931 to 1934 he worked as a waiter in various hotels in Switzerland, France and Hungary to learn the hotel trade, from 1934 until Austria was annexed by the Reich, he was employed in the café of his father in Klagenfurt.
It was during this time at the café, he met Globocnik, kaltenbrunner and Kurt Kutscera who changed his surname to Claasen, who also worked with Globocnik in Lublin.
Lerch became a member of the illegal Nazi Party and the SD since 1936, the annexation brought him promotion to the rank of an SD-Hauptsturmfuhrer and he became an SD –Leiter, a post he resigned from in July 1938.
He was called up to serve in the German Army and served in the Polish campaign as a signals corporal, in 1940 he was released from the army and employed with the Fremdenverkehrsverband Karnten in connection with the resettlement of German hotel proprietors from South Tyrol.
According to Lerch in his interrogation with the British in September 1941 he joined the Waffen-SS and was appointed Rasse und Seidlungsfuhrer based in Krakow in the General Government.
However, Lerch joined Globocnik the SSPF Lublin on 20 December 1941 and became chief of Globocnik’s personal office and Stabsfuhrer der Allgemienen –SS.
Lerch played a leading role in Aktion Reinhard responsible for Jewish affairs and he was responsible for the radio link between the Aktion Reinhard Headquarters in Lublin and Berlin.
At the former trial of the former Gestapo Chief in Lublin, Hermann Worthoff’s it was stated 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 transferred to Italy in September 1943, together with some of Globocnik’s staff. In Trieste he continued to serve as chief of Globocnik’s personal staff in Adriatic Coastal Area, he was also involved in anti-partisan operations, and for a few weeks Lerch was provisional police commander in Fiume.
After the German surrender in Italy, he made his way back to Carinthia, his homeland, where he was captured along with Gobocnik, Hofle, Michaelsen and Hellesberger, near the Wiessensee Lake.
Interrogated by the British in Wolfsberg from where he escaped and went into hiding between 1947 and 1950. Lerch was eventually brought to trial on 15 May 1972. The trial was held in Klagenfurt, however the case was eventually dropped on May 11, 1976 due to lack of witness testimony.
Ernst Lerch died in 1997 in Klagenfurt, having never been truly brought to justice.
Hitler’s Man in the East – Odilo Globocnik by Joseph Poprzecny, published by McFarland & Company, Inc Publishers 2004
Justice Not Vengeance by Simon Wiesenthal, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson London 1989
Holocaust Historical Society – personal papers
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