Usmas Pagast, 1944

When the war was over and my great grandfather Karlis Vinakmens and his family were living in Allied occupied Germany, my great grandfather wrote a letter outlining the details of his final days in Latvia before becoming a Nazi POW. I am not sure exactly to whom the letter was addressed, but it was probably some Latvian authority. This original letter is kept in the archives of the Latvian Occupation Museum in Riga. The museum’s historian Uldis Neiburgs was kind enough to send me copies, and a wonderful lady named Ilze translated it to English for me.

After the war, Latvia remained under communist rule until 1991. Talking about these events would have been extremely dangerous, and much is unknown about the events discussed here. This might even be one of the only eyewitness accounts of the what happened, and to have been written down in 1946, while still so fresh in my great grandfather’s mind makes this letter significant. Without further ado, his words:

“When I found out about the Latvian partisans I immediately wanted to join. It was also becoming increasingly difficult to avoid being conscripted into the German army and I could no longer stand the way that the Germans were operating in our country.
12/10/1944 Lt Rubenis battalion arrived at Ilziki near Usmas. My wish was met by the battalion commander Rubenis who enlisted me with the Minumetaji as a strelnieks (rifleman). As Ilziki didn’t have many rooms and our numbers were growing each day there was nothing else to do but build bunkers in the forest around Ilzikiem. My section settled into a bunker but others moved into the houses called Irbi and Vanagi which were part of the settlement of Ilziki.
At the start of November I fell ill with malignant tumors (that is the correct translation but surely he means something less serious, perhaps boils or ulcers?) so I was moved to Irbi where the battalions ambulance was billeted. There I was living with the mechanics group from the battalion, and I stayed with this group when the Germans started to annihilate Latvian partisans.
Even though we came from different areas of Latvia, we managed to get along and live together because we all carried in our hearts the love of our homeland.
Even though initially the Germans tolerated the partisan groups in Kurzeme, later they started to eradicate them. The Germans had hoped that the groups would provide them with the highest possible numbers of recruits for their own army, therefore they allowed them to flourish. But the partisans refused all German commands to join the German army and this caused the change of heart of the Germans.
Then the Germans asked the partisans to hand over all Latvians who had deserted the German army. They replied that they were Latvians within their own country, were not guilty of any crime against their own country and would not be given up. Seeing that the Germans were not getting anywhere with the partisan leaders their response was to annihilate the groups.
From 13/11/1944 to 14/11/1944 the Germans broke into all the houses where the partisans were sleeping to arrest or kill them. From the news it was apparent that only our battalion had succeeded in avoiding the attack. It was decided to go into the forests of Ilziki pagast to save our freedom. We followed forest trails around the eastern shore of Usmas Lake in the dark, moving towards Renda.
15/11/1944 we were not far from Lielbrenda and in the morning light we couldn’t dare continue marching. We rested through the day so that we could move again under cover of darkness.
15/11/1944 – 16/11/1944 we moved on without incident and in the morning we were near the Upati Forest guards house. There we fed the horses and we ourselves also rested as we still had a long way to go. As we were now tired we stayed well away from main roads moving only on forest trails and this enabled us to travel in daylight.
Not far from Perkonu house we were overtaken from behind by two German vehicles, a truck and a car. It turned out that in the truck were ?French? soldiers who were going to arrest two deserters.
After a while 2 German officers arrived. So it was that we took away the pleasure of these two thieves of Kurzeme (direct translation to give you the heartfelt emotion with which this is written). We stopped them as it was not in our interests for them to continue either their journey to arrest the deserters or to return to their command post.
Initially the German officers were very worried but in later talks with our commander they said that here around Kuldiga partisans had not been outlawed. It was only around Talsi where General Jekelns had given the command to annihilate partisan groups. They even named the houses in which local partisan groups were living. They suggested our commander drive back with them to their command post to discuss which houses the battalion could occupy and live here.
As it happened, our battalion commander accompanied the Germans to their post for discussions, our battalion stayed where we were, awaiting the outcome of the talks. In the first day of talks no decisions were made because the senior German officer was not there, so discussion continued for a second day.
17/11/1944 When the battalion commander arrived at the German post he was surprised to come face to face with Jekeln. Jekeln was very put out that the partisans had earlier evaded him but now he had caught them and for a final time he was ordering them to lay down their arms and surrender or they would, without exception be exterminated.
In a quiet calm manner Lt Rubenis answered, and they were his final words on the matter: “I want you to drive me back to my men in the forest, they have no intention of laying down arms nor of surrender.” Jekeln smirked “You are surrounded by SS battalions and you will be wiped out to the last man.”
Our battalion commander returned fairly crestfallen, the choices open to him were not that good, driving back he saw columns of Germans marching towards our area. Our lookouts also reported the German presence and movements. Our battalion commander called for our attention and in a few words told us what had happened. He told us to form up in readiness for battle that would come with the German attack. It was not possible to guess when this attack would come.
Already at 17:00 hours on 18/11/1944 German “starki” (artillery? rockets?) fly over us. In the forest at night they found no targets.
Dawn on 18/11/1944, the sunbeams are shining through the spruce trees, it’s a beautiful emotional scene of the men sitting together sunbeams playing over them as they sit around a campfire discussing what has happened in the previous year and todays celebrated/heroic acts that they anticipate are still to happen.
Seated are Briedis, Zarins and Kapastins with his wife, who would not be separated from her husband even in this difficult path of walking in the footsteps of the partisans. The battalion’s mechanic group Adjans, Aire, Zigurs, Ozolins, Kalnins and me had our flag flying here under the grey spruces of our homeland that the SS are so determined to destroy.
That was what 18/11 was like for Latvian partisans in 1944 on the left bank of the Abavas not far from Lielbrendes.
The morning was quiet, even so the battalion prepared for the fight. At 9:30 the first German “starki” (rockets) appeared and that revealed the position of the German heavy and light artillery, that started firing. The gunfire echoes in the forest and the fronds of the spruce rain down like snow flakes falling on the fighters clothing.
At 10:00 they started to advance their attack with German foot soldiers and their automatic fire. From the partisan side can be heard about 10 shots that are not without result. The partisans are not attacking, only taking defensive positions. As the Germans were not trying very hard, relying on their superior numbers and fire power they did not achieve their desired result. Some Germans lost their way and ended up being taken by the Latvian fighters.
As darkness was falling the Latvians started to push back the German attack and in places quite quickly the Germans in retreat found themselves on the banks of the fast flowing Abavas River and in their rush they couldn’t find a way to cross. The strongest partisan weapon fire forced those still left alive into the current and here now the fast flowing Abava achieves its goal and the majority drown. The German soldiers are driven by the current to the Venta River. Lots of German corpses litter the forests of Kurzeme and their losses are heavier than the partisans.
The most painful loss for the partisans is the loss of their commander, Roberts Rubenis, who not long after being wounded in the stomach and leg, died of his wounds. The command is taken over by v.v. Druvins. After the German encounter the battalion moves on as there is no reason to wait here.
Again a couple of times through the night there are a couple of encounters with landmines left behind by the houses that the battalion used. The strongest resistance is around the ‘Novadnieku’ houses. Even so v.v. Sulcs who is at the front of the column finds them.
On the 19th we camp in a swampy forest to rest and decide that our commanders, Lt Rubenis funeral will be carried out at Usmas cemetery. Having taken command Druvins gave a short speech in memory of our fallen and also mentioning our country’s National Day (18/11 is Latvia Day). He thanked us all for our heroic fight now so fatefully linked with 18/11.
Doubly significant is this day because it brought us victory over a superior enemy. Finally Druvins invited us all to sing the Lords Prayer(?) As many hundreds of mens chests/hearts overflow with prayer and their eyes blink back tears even after years of fighting – for those who are lost. In the distant forest there echo the songs last words, silence rules the moment as in a holy place, our homeland forest, we fighters stand, heads covered only by the grey spruces, bitter sweetness overlays the silence.
Again v.v. Sulcs recounts the conversation between our fallen commander and the German officers. With what arrogance the Germans dealt with the Latvians. Latvians can only fight, there are no other steps that can be taken against the German occupiers said v.v. Sulcs. They have taken our brothers, our sisters, and parents to their country not for some festivities but for hard/cruel work. They have destroyed our fields and pastures, our towns, stolen from our homes, we have to take the fight up to these invaders to the end even if it costs us our lives. And we will show no mercy to these, thieves of our country concluded v.v. Sulcs.
Over the night 19 to 20/11/1944 the battalion marched further and during the day of 20/11/1944 we came to Diskiru house in the region not far from where the Abavas joins the Venta and here we stay.
Making use of this rest period I ask permission from my commander to visit my family which is living in the small village of Valdemarpils, and having been granted permission I take to the road.
To avoid the areas in which partisans are being hunted and where Germans have put up strong control points I travel in a long diversion through Kuldiga along the Kuldiga and Tukums pagast boundary through Talsi and finally arrive at Valdemarpils.
Here at Valdemarpils is another bit of bad luck. Everyone who has come here from elsewhere, if they haven’t documented evidence of having lived here for 3 years, they are being forcibly removed to Germany. As I’m not on the residents list I was stopped and together with all the exiled, including my own family, we were taken to Ventspils and then by ship to Germany. It should be noted that in Valdemarpils this action was undertaken by communists with the help of Germans. They didn’t even allow the town council to distribute food parcels from those who had relatives who had somehow escaped deportation.
In this way on 8/12/1944 we left Ventspils. I have no further knowledge of my fighting comrades and have had no further news.”

Virtual Latvian Occupation Museum

I have been thinking recently of my Opa Karlis Vinakmens’ time in the Latvian Resistance movement, reading more about the kureliesi in general, and trying to understand the flow of events for him and how he managed to escape Latvia at the end of it all. I stumbled upon the Latvian Occupation Museum’s virtual site - and found what would have been genealogical gold to me a few years ago. Opa’s name is mentioned, along with a quote by him that had been given in the 1950’s and collected in a book called “Kureliesi” by Haralds Biezais.

Many elaborate, exaggerated stories are handed down about ancestors by word-of-mouth (likely in every family tree!), and I have discovered many of them to be exaggerations in my time researching genealogy. If you ask, it seems everyone is related to some kind of king or prince or war-hero or native American “princess”. I try to take all stories lightly until I find real supporting evidence and documentation. As more information about the kureliesi and Lt. Roberts Rubenis’ battalion surfaces after so many years of fear and silence under the Soviet regime, it seems all of what’s been said about my Opa is true, so far! I can’t help but feel some pride that Karlis was part of such a brave, fierce, nationalistic group as Lt. Roberts Rubenis’ battalion was…

Now, only to corroborate the story of his squashing a German attack on the battalion by hearing a bird sing at night, which was actually a signal being used by the Germans… and winning a medal for it.

Amanuensis Monday: The Baptism of Rasma Vinakmens

My mother had found an old suitcare that belonged to my grandmother recently, and let me go through it to see if I could find anything of genealogical value. While I didn’t find much new information, I did find her German Reiseausweis, Caandian Citizenship certificates and 3 different copies of this curious document:

Certificate of Birth and Baptism

Rasma Lilija Vinakmenis, daughter of Karlis Vinakmenis and his wife Berta Helen Vinakmenis nee Ozols-Ozolins was born on 23 September 1937 at Tukums, Latvia and baptized on December 25, of the same year by the local paster the Rev. Alberts Virbulis at the Evang.Lutheran Church of Tukums according to the Ev. Lutheran ritual.
This statement is based on the Parish Records of the Latvian Ev. Lutheran congregtion at Esslingen.
Esslingen/Neckar Oct. 21, 1954
Pastor Elmars Rozitis
Minister of the Ev. Luth. congregation at Esslingen/Neckar

(Seal)
Secretary to the Archbishop of the Latvian Ev. Luth. Church

Signed by Adolfs Donins, 28. October 1954

This seems to be some form of birth certificate/identification for my grandmother, who turned 17 in 1954 (Where was her original birth certificate?) 

The first interesting thing that caught my eye was the stamp of the Commanding Officer of the 7566 Labor Service Engineer Dump Truck. This confirms that my great-grandfather Karlis was still a part of this Labor Service unit in 1954. Until now, besides handwritten, I had never seen “official” anything from the 7566 LSC.

The second interesting thing is now I know my grandmother was baptised on Christmas, by Dean Alberts Virbulis. Mr. Virbulis was also Dean of neighbouring Kandava parish. I found a picture of Virbulis, at the altar of ther Tukums Lutheran church on the site Zudusī Latvija.

Another name of note is Elmars Rozitis, of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran church of Esslingen am Neckar (who appears to still be alive??).

The last, and perhaps most interesting name is Adolfs Donins. Adolfs Fricis Donins was the OBERSTURMBANNFÜHRER, or Commanding Officer of the 19th Latvian Legion during WWII, until it’s surrender in 1945. Why would an identification document of my grandmother’s bear his signature? Is this perhaps a hint that her father, Karlis Vinakmenis DID serve in the Latvian Legion? I bear in mind that he had been in the Latvian Navy, and then probably jailed in Rezekne by the Soviets until the Germans invaded and “liberated” him. Did they conscript him?? (More on Karlis’ military service.)

Place of Interest: North Durbe Parish

Hunting for records of my Indriks and Klavs Ziverts during their time at “Dizdroga” estate, I began combing through the Durbe church books.

It seems like there were a couple different “Drogas” – Lieldroga/Gross Drogen, Mazdroga/Klein Drogen, Vecdroga/Alt Drogen, Krusat-Droga/Krusat Drogen, and apparently Dizdroga/Disch Drogen (although I have yet to find Dizdroga on a map)

To my suprise, not only did I find residents of Droga at Durbe, but also surnames Sihwarts, Strohmann and Sedols.

In 1872, I found the marriage of Heinrich/Indrikis Siverts and Betty Ozolins. These two eventually moved to Dsirgen estate and baptised a few children there in the German congregation. Heinrich/Indrikis and Betty are named godparents in one of Klavs’ (father of my Indriks) and his second wife Lina’s children, also baptised in the German congregation. A hint I’m on the right track?

Perhaps I should have been looking in Durbe a long time ago!

Other interesting surnames of North Durbe parish: “Nimrod”, “Makbeth”. Someone was a Shakespeare buff! Haha.

Also of interest: Durbe is home to the first set of triplets I’ve come across – in 1877 born to a Jaunzemis family!

Document: Skrundenieki’s Land File – Sneak Peek

I was able to get a glimpse of the highlights of Skrundenieki’s official land record from the Latvian State Historical Archives.

I know this is repetition, but laws passed in the 1860’s allowing people to purchase farms, rather than having all land owned by German nobility. Skrundenieki was first purchased in 1882 by a “Perkons” family, and was probably sold by Alexander von Simolins – Wettberg. I know of Alexander already, since he baptised a daughter at Embute while living at Lieldzelda in 1842. Going along with the Lieldzelda connection – a “Kristaps Akkerfeld” is mentioned in this sale, possibly as a witness to the exchange of money.

In 1895, Skrundenieki was sold for 5019 roubles to the Ziverts family, from Perkons. This is the same year I suspect my great, great grandfather Indriks Ziverts married his wife Jule Dzerve (she would have been 18). The very next year in April 1896, Indriks and Jule baptised their first son Klavs Jeannot at Skrundenieki, and named Klavs Jeannot Ziverts, “wirt” or “landowner” as his godfather. I long suspected this Klavs was my Indriks’ father. Now there is more evidence in this land file. When Indriks, son of Klavs passed away, ownership of Skrundenieki passed to my great, great uncle Arturs Ziverts, in 1930. So it is likely Indriks died in 1929 or 1930.

The good news is: I have already done my research on this Klavs, suspecting he could be my great, great, great grandfather: He was born in Paplakas estate December 12, 1941. His father, Lauris and mother Margreete moved to “Mucenieki” farm in Brinkenhof estate in 1858. The same year, 17 year old Klavs left for “Dizdroga” estate. From Dizdroga he went to Nodega. In 1881, 40 year old Klavs married 19 year old Lina Grinbergs. They welcomed a daughter in 1882 while at Nodega estate. July 16, 1883 they moved back to Brinkenhof, “Vanagi” farm. And I suppose after that, to Skrundenieki!

The bad news: Indriks must be from an unknown first marriage of Klavs, maybe at Dizdroga estate, maybe Nodega, maybe even an unknown place. No revision lists exist for these two. Nodega residents are usually recorded at Embute church, but there is no sign of Klavs there. Indriks could have been born anywhere. My next step is scan the Durbe churchbooks for such a marriage, or Indriks baptism, and hope that Klavs didn’t move around too much more than I know!

Surname: An Akerfelds Etymology Tangent…

Ok, follow my line of thinking: Akerfelds, Hakerfeld, Hackerfeld, Hackenfeld, Hagenfeld, Hakenfeld, Eikenfeld, Eichenfeld…

All my Akerfelds/Hackerfeld ancestors who’s burial records I have been able to find have stated their place of birth as Lieldzelda estate. Unfortunately, they were all born between 1853 and 1870, when Embute’s church books are missing. That being said, there are definitely no Hackerfelds/Hakenfelds/Akerfelds listed prior to 1880 in the books either.

If Akerfeldses (a name with a meaning that doesn’t really make sense “fields, fields”) were born in Lieldzelda, but no baptisms with that surname exist there, what is the reason? I think that the surname was originally different, and through generations of word-of-mouth and Latvian-old German translations, poor literacy and scribes writing down the name as they hear it spoken, evolved to Akerfelds. And “Eichenfelds” is there, recorded in the church books, and is a good candidate from where the name could have evolved. I have long since suspected these Eichenfelds could be my ancestors.

I have indexed all baptisms of children born in Lieldzelda at Embute church. The range of surnames post-1870 is great in this estate (keep in mind Embute’s church books are missing from 1853-1870) so it appears that when laws were passed (mid 1800’s)allowing peasants to move from estate to estate, Lieldzelda saw a fairly large amount of immigration.  From 1852 and earlier, the amount of different surnames shrinks considerably since, for the most part, people were made to stay at the estate they were born on. Redlichs, Ehrlichs, Treuguts, Gutmanns, Petrewitz and Kreischmanns are large “original” families in Lieldzelda (meaning likely their patriarch lived at Lieldzelda at the time of the acquisition of surnames. More info on the acquisition of Latvian surnames HERE).

This is going off on a bit of a tangent and is, as of now, a far reach. But I discovered an Eichenfeld couple who had a child in 1845. Father Mikelis is listed as “Wirt Muizaraji” or “Landlord of Muizaraji farm”. The mother was named Katrine. I can only find one baptism for this couple prior to the Embute church book gap of 1852. Typically, a couple would have had more than one child. Where are the other kids? There is another baptism a few years earlier that also lists the child’s father as “Wirt Muizaraji”, but the surname there is “Reichenbach” (“Reich” = “rich, “Reichen” = “range” and “Bach” = “brook” or “creek”). Coincidentally parents are also Mikelis and Katrine. This might sound a far stretch to wonder if the Eichenfelds and the Reichenbachs are the same couple, but again, prior to 1850, there was not a lot of movement amongst peasants, people usually stayed in the same area, surnames were not as numerous, and ownership of land was usually passed down generation to generation… Rich/Range Creek and Oak Field and Field, Field…

Just a coincidence, two owners of the same farm, a few years apart, having the same name and same wife’s name?

One more hint I’ve collected over the years, is one modern-day Akerfelds recalls his great-great-great grandfather (generation prior to 1865-ish) was named Kristaps. There is indeed, a Kristaps Eichenfelds to be found at Lieldzelda who fits the time period. This Kristaps was married to Marija and they had children Ernests and Ieva in 1871 and 1873, both of whom died in infancy. Kristaps Eichenfelds died in 1904 at age 71 (born in 1833). Child of Mikelis and Katrine Reichenbach/Eichenfeld? There was a Kristaps Hackerfeld in Lieldzelda as well, who’s death record indicates he was born in Lieldzelda in 1866. son of Kristaps Eichenfeld?

Did Eichenfeld turn into Akerfelds/Hackenfeld/etc etc in the 1853-1870 period?

Place of Interest: Elkuzeme/Elkesem Estate

While I haven’t been able track down a baptismal record for my great-great grandfather Indriks Ziverts, I have scoured the rest of the Embute church records and noted some other Ziverts/Sivert/Sihwert families. Andrejs and Anna Sivert were having children around 1850 at Amboten estate. Fricis and Anna Sihwert around 1900 at Backhusen. Otis and Lise Sihwert around 1875 at Dinsdorf, Karlis and Katrine Sihwert around 1873 at Dinsdorf. Heinrich and Betty Sivert around 1882 at Dsirgen. Klavs and Line Sivert at Brinkenhof around 1885.

The farther back I look though, earlier than 1850, it seems like some the Sivert families of Embute draudze lived at an estate called Elkesem, southwest of Amboten estate, just south of Asitten estate. Elkesem (modern Elkuzeme) is a little interesting, because as an estate it is comprised of only some 15 or so farms, when the average for an estate was around 35. Something about the name Elkesem also intrigues me – it is “Elks” or “idol” and “zeme” – “land”. Land of idols.

The area was severely damaged during WWII, at one time there was a train station there, on a track leading from a Lithuanian city (Mazeikiai) to Liepaja. Now there is a spring located there, called the Elkuzeme Eye spring.

While I cannot attribute my Ziverts ancestors to the Sivert families of Elkesem/Elkuzeme for sure until I find Indriks’ baptismal record, it is still a place worthy of noting!

The red A marker shows where Elkesem estate was. In comparison, you can see Embute, where the Lutheran church was, Dinsdurbe, which is old Dinsdorf estate, Bakuze, which is old Backhusen estate, and Nikrace, old Brinkenhof estate. Note in the southwest, Purmsati and Gramzdas estates. Purmsati is where Indriks

Resource: These Names Accuse

What It Is

There is a book titled “These Names Accuse: Nominal List of Latvians deported to Soviet Russia in 1940-1941″. It was published by the Latvian National Foundation (located in Stockholm, Sweden). The list of names is actually a list of people reported to the authorities in Riga as missing, either by their family members, or friends, or other members of the community.

When the Germans occupied Latvia and took control, organizations such as the Latvian Red Cross and the Latvian Statistical board were established, and tried to compile a list of those murdered by the Soviets and count the human losses. They asked the Latvian public to report those known to have been executed, or deported, or just missing. The first compilation was published in 1942, but reports continued to be received, and supplementary lists were added. As time wore on and the fates of some of those arrested became known, the fate of a person was also added in.

How You Can Use It

In addition to first and last names, the approximate birth date, registration/group number, last known address, and in some cases, the fate of the listed person is included.

The group number indicates under which circumstance the person was deported – the number 2 meant deportation occurred on the night of June 14, 1941. Number 3 meant they were arrested, then removed from prison. Number 4 meant the person had been missing since the collapse of the Russian Empire (this was mostly military personnel) who had been forcibly evacuated to Russia.

Since many of those listed here perished, you are more likely to find information on extended families of ancestors here. In my own experience I discovered brothers and sisters of direct ancestors, however their stories are important too, providing clues and puzzle pieces. Keep in mind that quite likely their arrest and deportation had a formative impact on the family and friends they left behind.

If you’d like to know more about these events: http://www.latvians.com/en/Reading/TheseNamesAccuse/ThNA-00-OurFamilies.php

The full list of names can be found here: http://www.latvietislatvija.com/These_Names_Accuse/These_Names_Accuse.htm

Organization: The US Army Labor Service Co.

This is the topic I’m just beginning to research, and am quite new to. The long and short of what I know so far is, when the DP Camps closed shop, the US Army hired Germans and other DP’s to help repair war torn Europe, and sometimes keep security watch. I am finding relatively little information regarding this time period – suprising, because you would think that because it was the US Army, there would be immaculate records kept somewhere.

Both Arvids Martins Akerfelds and his soon-to-be father-in-law Karlis Vinakmens found employment in the Labor Service Co (LSC). Is this why they stayed in Germany after the majority of their families had been accepted to the US and Canada? Perhaps they were denied immigration rights, or were low on the priority list since they had already been accepted for immigration to Belgium as coal miners. Whatever the reason, Karlis and family would stay in Germany, employed by the Labor Service until 1956 and Arvids until 1957.

It seems that Balts (Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians) were fairly highly regarded by the US Army. They had special insignias and patches distinguishing them from others, and units of strictly Balts. Also it looks like they were living significantly more luxuriously than while in DP Camps.

Karlis was a part of the 7566 LSC from 1951 onwards, and Arvids the 7132 LSC from 1950. Both units were stationed at Mannheim-Kafertal at the time, and then later Ettlingen near the city of Karlsruhe. More about Allied-occupied Germany here: ‘http://chelli11.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/places-of-interest-allied-occupied-germany/

 The 7566 LSC were active sportsmen and upheld a sense of Latvian community and culture for themselves and their families. A chapter of the “Daugavas Vanagi”, a charitable Latvian  refugee relief organization was established amongst the men. In their spare time, they held organized concerts and lectures, as well as sporting events. They were the first LSC unit to begin building apartments and housing for their families in Germany. I cannot say much aout the 7132 unit yet, but one would assume that their story is similar, being a twin Latvian unit stationed at the same location.

Here is a site of interest on the topic:
http://www.usfava.com/LaborService/
http://www.usfava.com/LaborService/baltic.htm

Places of Interest: Allied-Occupied Germany

Allied occupied Germany, c 1947. The black square outlines the portion shown in the map below.

(click to enlarge) Places of interest within Allied-Occupied Germany. From the North, going southward: Marburg, Fulda, Giessen, Butzbach, Echzell, Friedberg, Budingen, Hanau, Wiesbaden, Frankfurt, Darmstadt-Dieburg, Bensheim-Auerbach, Mannheim, Ettlingen. Gaggenau-Bad Rotenfels, Augsburg.

In the period immediately following Germany’s surrender in WWII, German territory was split into zones occupied by different Allied powers for administrative purposes. British, French, Soviet and American zones were established. All of my Latvian ancestors fell into the American zone, located in the German states of Hessen, Bavaria, the northern part of Baden-Württemberg, and the ports of Bremen and Bremerhaven.

Germany remained occupied like this from 1945-1949, but Allied powers kept military bases in many German cities for many years, during the Cold War period especially. The American Army still has forces stationed in Germany today (as they do around Europe). The US army’s headquarters in Germany were located in Frankfurt am Main, a city which was the site of a large airport (the one that Arvids Akerfelds flew out of in 1957).

Two such American military bases that are of interest to my Latvian ancestors were located in Mannheim-Käfertal and Ettlingen. Karlis Vinakmens, in the 7566 LSCo, and Arvids Akerfelds, in the 7132 LSCo, were stationed at both. The bases were called “Kasernen”. “Kaserne” is the German word for “barracks” (a “barracks” refers to a permanent housing for military troops, being either a complex of housing units, or one large building).

The military accommodations in Mannheim were large, and known as “The Benjamin Franklin Village” and consisted of several different barracks: Taylor Barracks, Sullivan Barracks, Funari Barracks, Spinelli Barracks, Coleman Barracks, and Turley Barracks. These buildings, along with an American high school and middle school located in Mannheim have been in use since 1947 and are still in use today, scheduled to be vacated by 2014.

In Ettlingen, the Rheinland Kaserne was home to American troops and support from 1950-1995, and prior to this was home of many displaced persons from the end of the war up until its use as a military facility. It is a large grouping of buildings. The facility is still standing today, it’s historical buildings have been turned into housing units, a high school, private offices, a research laboratory, a movie theatre and sports centre, pubs, and a park and children’s playground.

Much information is easily found on these kasernes with a quick Google search, but very little of the information pertains to the Latvian Labor Service. I am still very underwhelmed at the amount of information available about what the Labor Service men were all about.