Ancestor Story: Arnold Vinakmen

Arnolds Roberts Vinakmens was born March 14, 1911, probably in Tukums, Latvia. He was the second son of Vilis Augusts Wihnstein and Emiija Karline Veisbergs. Arnolds, like the rest of his siblings, went to Russia (Siberia) with his parents and two brothers sometime around 1914, only to return home (with a new sister, Alise) a few years later, during the Russian Revolution.

Arnold’s father Vilis abandoned his family sometime after the birth of his last son Fricis in 1921, and his older sons, Arnolds included, left home to find work. Arnolds worked for the railway in Latvia. He married an ethnic Russian woman, Valentina Ivanova Fedorova (born December 19, 1912) sometime around 1936, and their first and only son, Juri (pronounced “YOU-ree”) was born on December 13, 1937 in Daugavpils, one of Latvia’s largest cities located in southeastern Latgale.

Sometime after Juri’s birth, likely after 1941, Arnolds and Valentina moved to another large Latvian city, Valmiera, (located in northern Vidzeme) where Juri attended elementary school and Arnolds once again worked for the railway.

Arnolds is listed in the book “These Names Accuse”(http://chelli11.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/these-names-accuse/). However, I am going to assume this is not because he was arrested and deported by Soviets, but because during the German occupation of Latvia following the mass deportations of 1941, being that Arnolds lived on the other side of the country as the rest of his family, perhaps his family lost communication with him and considered him “missing” when the Latvian authorities asked people to report those family members who had been deported. His key number of “4” indicates that he was reported as “missing since the last days of Soviet occupation”, his last address known being Daugavpils.

Arnolds and Valentine moved to Riga in the latter half of the 1950’s, where they had a small house and a large garden (my own Opa and Oma Karlis and Berta also kept a large, beautiful garden) on an island in the Daugava River. Their son Juri moved to St. Petersburg, Russia (then called Leningrad) to attend a Military Academy. He would become an officer, stationed in the Far East of Russia, and later in his life he became a successful doctor.

Arnolds and Valentine (Valija) lived at their house in Riga and enjoyed summertime visits from their grandchildren for many years.  As they aged in the early 1990’s, they moved to St. Petersburg to be closer to their son Juri, so he could help care for them. Arnolds passed away in 1993, at the age of 82, and Valentine passed away in 1995, aged 83.

Amazing, Arnolds was the last Vinakmens sibling for me to learn his fate. All five Vinakmens siblings lived until at least the age of 80. Quite an accomplishment, given the circumstances they faced!

http://chelli11.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/where-in-the-world-is-arnolds-vinakmens/

Where in the World is Arnolds Vinakmens?

Arnolds Vinakmens was born in 1911, probably in Tukums. He was the second son of Vilis Augusts Wihnstein and Emilija Karline Veisbergs. I have very little information about Arnolds.

He is listed in “These Names Accuse” as a deportee of June 14, 1941. Registration and group no:  17668/4, last known whereabouts: Daugavpils. The 4 in his case number means he was likely either in the military, or a communications or transport official or employee who was evacuated by force to Russia.

One of my great aunts, Arnolds’ niece, recounted to me that Arnolds had a wife named Valentina. They lived in Russia near St. Petersburg and had two sons, one of which was a violinist and one a painter.  So, if he was deported, he must have stayed there, and he was probably already fluent in Russian, since his family lived in Russia for a few years when he was a child.

Indeed, today there are Vinakmens in St. Petersburg. Whether or not they are descendants of Arnolds I don’t know yet, but I am attempting to find out!

***UPDATE***

After learning how to spell “Vinakmens” in Russian Cyrillic (“Винакмен”), I searched the web. I found a few hits on Facebook.com, of those living in St. Petersburg. Knowing that Vinakmens is not a common surname, and the fact that they lived in St. Petersburg like my great aunt had told me, I decided to send messages. Bingo! I found myself speaking to Arnolds’ grandson, who seems just as interested in family history as I am.

Ancestor Story: Where in the World is Jule Dzerve?

Jule Dzerve, mother of Arturs and Anna Ziverts was born December 29, 1877 in Purmsati pagast in western Latvia. Her parents were Jukums Dzerve and Lawise Bittner (her father’s name, a traditional Latvian one but her mother’s sounds more typically German). She was baptised “Jenny Jule Ida Dzerve” at the Gramzdas German Lutheran parish church. She married Indriks Ziverts June 18, 1895 (or so we can assume, since that is the date she began living at Skrundenieki farm {info gleaned from the 1941 Latvian Census}). She had 9 children that I know of: Karlis, Peteris, Fricis, Arturs, Lucija, Anna, Arnolds, Olga and Ida.
When her husband Indriks passed away (somewhere between 1920 and 1935), her son Arturs inherited the farm and was responsible for her care and upkeep for life, as per his father’s will and testament (also pinched from the 1941 Latvian Census).
Of course, she fled with her family in October of 1944. She turned 67 years old that year, and this must have been a very difficult journey for a senior citizen. She was with the Ziverts clan in Gotenhaufen/Kelsterbach/Friedberg/Bidingen/Dieburg between 1944 and 1946, and the last recording I have of her is a record of her leaving Dieburg for Darmstadt on October 21, 1946.
In most documents from the ITS I received about her, she is listed with Arturs, Katte and their children, but herself, Olga and Ida are usually listed after the main family, and may have had to fill out some of their paperwork separately as single persons.

Arturs and family left Germany in March of 1949, I know that since I have the SS General Langfitt’s Passenger Manifest. But no Jule, Olga, Irma or Ida.
I do also have a form that states that Olga and Irma were successfully resettled, going from Hochfeld DP Camp in Augsburg to Calesburg, North Dakota, USA on December 6, 1949. Why didn’t Irma go with her parents, Arturs and Katte? And what of Ida? (I remember reading somewhere that something was wrong with Ida and she could not work hard labor. I can’t remember where I read this and can’t find it again – can’t stress enough to importance of keeping your records straight!)
My theory is that Jule perished while in Germany. She would have been around 70 years old, in forced labor camps on tight rations. I just don’t know if she ever made it to the USA with her family.
I have written the ITS again regarding Jule… awaiting response..

A snippet from Arturs Ziverts IRO Assistance Application

A snippet from Arturs Ziverts IRO Assistance Application

Ancestor Story: Karlis and the Three Armies

I’m trying to prove the family story that Karlis Vinakmens had been in 3 different armies within 20 years. I am making a little headway as I begin to understand the history of these armies. My mother remembers Karlis saying that if he ever returned to Latvia, he would be killed immediately.

The clue that sparked this challenge is the picture above. The pictures here are said to have been taken in 1934, 1944 and 1954, in the Latvian, German and American armies, with the cross in the middle as a military award.

In Karlis’ International Refugee Organization (IRO) application form, it is clear that something is written about his time as both a Latvian Naval Aviator and as part of the Latvian resistance movement. There is also a section listing his personal documents he had with him in Germany, clearly saying something from the Latvian Resistance movement, and Lettland Luftwaffe Division (Latvian Airforce Division).

Can you decipher the German text about Karlis’ residences? “Im Walde…”

Can you decipher the German text about Karlis’ employment? “Im Walde….”

Can you decipher the German text about Karlis’ documents? “Lettland …Luftwaffe Division… Chief of the Latvian Resistance Movement”

Also as proof of his time in the Latvian Resistance is his listing in an article by the Latvian President’s history commission in 2006, written by Uldis Neiburgs “Association of the Participants of the Latvian Resistance Movement (LPKDA) and Its Documentation about the Resistance Movement in Nazi-Occupied Latvia (1941–1945)” (sidenote: I added this document on the sidebar as a searchable database, for anyone else’s reference).

For the American army bit, Karlis was employed with the Labor Service Co. This is proven in his IRO application form as well and is not much of a mystery.

The German army is the most difficult for me to prove. My best guesses are that he was either: conscripted by the German army during the Nazi occupation, OR he eventually surrendered to the German army near the end of his Resistance Movement days in order to serve the best interests of his wife and daughters, OR he worked for the German army as a displaced person while in Germany. The only possibly concrete evidence of this I have come across is on one of Karlis’ 2 DP Cards, his occupation is “bildhauer” and his other occupation is “ ”C” CO. 30 INF.” which seems to be a listing of an army infantry unit. Whether this is the German one or not I don’t know yet, it could be any army as far as I know at this point. Searching for this kind of information is proving to be a little difficult!

What army is this snippet from Karlis’ DP Card referring to?

Roadblock: Akerfelds

Jekabs Grinbergs alias Akerfelds is Arvids’ grandfather. He was born c. 1870, but as to where, I still have no clue. He married Ieva Sedols in 1892 at Embute Lutheran Church, where they baptised 2 children: Ernest in 1893 and Anna in 1894 while living at Muizaraji farm in Lieldzelda. Then the family disappears until 1904. Their son Janis (Arvids’ father) was born in 1898, supposedly in Nikrace parish (which did not exist at the time, but was rather called Brinki, or Brinkenhof estate)but I cannot find his baptismal record.

The next brother, Martins (for whom Arvids is named) is lrecorded as being born in 1902 in Tomsk, Siberia. It is noted that some Latvians did go to Siberia (voluntarily this time, not forcibly!) for work, and cheap land around 1910 when the Trans-Siberian railway was built, but alas, I have no documents from the Akerfelds family at this time. Church baptismal records do exist in Tomsk, but getting my hands on them is proving to be a challenge.

The next I know is their last child Katte was baptised in November of 1904, back in Embute parish while living at Cepli farm in Lieldzelda, and that same year Jekabs died, his cause of death listed as lung or kidney illness.

I don’t know where to begin searching for a birth record for Jekabs since I don’t know his place of birth, and can’t find listing of his parents anywhere. The exact reason why he went by Grinbergs and yet also Akerfelds is still a mystery to me also. “Grinbergs” is a fairly common surname though, and it is easily assumed that “Akerfelds” was chosen as a way to distinguish a certain family from the other, unrelated Grinbergs families in the area.

 I believe Jekabs had at least one other brother named Ernest, for whom his first son was named, and who was the godfather of his first son. This Ernest Grinbergs alias Akerfelds (c. 1868) married Annlise Grinbergs and they had a few children in Embute parish, Janis’ cousins they would have been. Again, note that during the naming of the Latvians, many different, unrelated families were given the same common names, Grinbergs being one of these common choices. So, probably Annlise and Ernest were not of the same ancestors, even though they shared the Grinbergs surname.

The Akerfelds name though, if chosen to differentiate one Grinbergs family from another, is much less common, since it is basically invented. Since both Jekabs and Ernest chose this new surname to define their families, it is not a far stretch to assume these two were brothers.

Ancestor Story: Akerfelds Fremdarbeiter

When I first pieced together the story of the Akerfelds family and the manner in which they left their farm Skrundenieki in October of 1944 to flee to a sawmill in Echzell, I assumed they left on their own will as they watched the Soviet army march back through Latvia, and fled to the sawmill of Hermann Mogk III, some sort of temporary safe-haven for refugees. A sawmill in the German countryside brought pastoral, green, peaceful thoughts to me, but the more I learn, the more I see this is probably very far from the case.

Many young Latvian men were drafted by the German army as the Russians began pushing them back west. It is entirely possible that the older Akerfelds boys were drafted and used to man anti-Allied, anti-aircraft guns. I have no documentation supporting the Akefelds involvement in this, but perhaps being a part of the German army was not something you would have advertised in days as a displaced person. This could help explain why the Ziverts were in Liepaja periodically as well.

This conscription of Latvians into the German army could also explain the mystery of Karlis and the three armies, but until I learn more I will not jump to any conclusions just yet.

In either case, German army or not, the Akerfelds were most certainly forced to evacuate to Germany by the German army, to be used as foreign forced labourers in the German homeland.

The sawmill was not the safe haven it seemed to me at first. The family was probably used to help gather resources to support the German cause during the war. Reading about eldest son Arturs time at forced labor camp Bad Rotenfels brought this situation to light for me.

Luckily, it was not long before Hitler committed suicide and the Germans surrendered. Echzell became occupied by the American army in May 1945, thus “liberating” the foreign forced workers(“fremdarbeiter”) and beginning their days as “displaced persons”.

…So what became of Skrundenieki, forcibly abandoned in the countryside of Kurzeme in the fall of 1944?

An excerpt from Arturs Ziverts' IRO Application, re-telling his story. The Akerfelds story is the same, except when the Ziverts were in Friedberg, the Akerfelds were in Echzell.

Mystery Monday: Akerfelds in Tomsk

Currently I’m emailing back and forth with someone in Russia about old church records from Tomsk. The email address I obtained by posting a query on http://genforum.genealogy.com/. I’m hoping that Jekabs and Ieva Akerfelds baptised their son Martins in Tomsk in 1902, (and possibly even my great-grandfather Janis) leaving behind some records. They were Lutheran in Latvia, but chances are a Lutheran church did not exist in Siberian Tomsk at the time, so I’m banking on at least some form of Protestant church being located there, in a mainly Orthodox country.

Obviously, English being my only fluent language, speaking Russian (a language that even uses a different alphabet all together) is not my forte. I seem to get by with the aid of Google Translate, (as crude as that is). Google Translate seems to be pretty easy to use for Russian, as long as you stay away from using any sort of slang and keep to your point. I am also lucky enough to work with a man who speaks Russian, so every now and then I ask him to get me through any difficult translations. I am to the point where I can look at a word written in Cyrillic and sound it out, but that knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet is about as far as I get, without a good grasp on the actual Russian language.

This Russian contact of mine is very quick to respond, usually in one business day, although the email comes over night, since Tomsk is pretty much literally on the other side of the world.

Wish me luck that this Russian resource turns up some Akerfelds evidence! Maybe a clue to what exactly they were doing in Siberia!