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.