Ancestor Story: Fricis Vinakmens, Part 1

Fricis Vinakmens was born on May 19, 1921 in Tukums. He was (likely) the fifth and final child of Vilis Augusts Vinakmens/Weinstein and Emilija Karline Veisbergs. At the time of his birth, Fricis already had 16-, 10- and 8-year old brothers, and a 5-year-old sister. His parents had just come back to Latvia from Russia in the wake of the Russian Revolution. It is not clear when, but soon after his birth (or even conception), Vilis abandoned Emilija and their children.

Fricis grew up in Tukums during Latvia’s inter-war independence. His older brothers eventually joined the Latvian army and moved away from home. Fricis himself lived with his mother and sister up until 1942. His mother was a housekeeper, his sister was a clerk in a pharmacy, and Fricis was a mechanic at a private workshop owned by a man named Erdmans (his sister Alise later married an Erdmans… the same man?). When the Soviets invaded Latvia for the first time, they took over Fricis’ mechanic’s shop and declared it a Soviet government-owned business. When the Nazis took over, the shop passed hands to them.

It should be noted that much propaganda was used at this time to try and recruit men to the various German army units. A Latvian Waffen SS unit was formed. To some Latvians, after the horrors of what the Soviets had done to their family and friends, joining the Nazi army was just one way to fight back at the Soviets. Latvians also fought on the Soviet side, and also in the Kureliesi fighting against both sides. It is easy to see that the lines were quite blurred, and Latvians would fight in whatever way they could to stay alive. As the war progressed, the Nazis began suffering serious losses and the propaganda did not recruit enough men to voluntarily join their ranks, so they turned to forced conscription to recruit men into their forces to replace lost numbers.

The Todt organization was a Nazi paramilitary group, named for founder Fritz Todt. This organization in it’s early stages is actually responsible for the construction of the Autobahn highway, and the fortified Westwall along Germany’s western borders. It had been started in the early 1930’s as a large-scale construction and engineering organization. Of course, they required labourers, and in the beginning ethnic Germans worked for Todt. As the Nazi’s grew in power, the Todt’s projects became more and more militarily-focused. During the war, once the Nazi’s began suffering regular defeats, all their German man-power was diverted to military units. Forced labourers, conscripts, and prisoners-of-war from Nazi-occupied countries began to be used as Todt Organization workers. Even Jewish concentration camp prisoners were forced to join the paramilitary group. It is estimated that by 1944, over 1.4 million European men were part of this organization.

In September of 1942, Fricis was recruited by the Todt Organization. As an occupant of a Nazi-occupied foreign country, he was likely forcibly conscripted as a foreign labourer (fremdarbeiter). He was put in the “Schutzkommando” unit as a guard for other prisoners-of-war. They sent him to Riga for a brief training, then to the Russian Front near Leningrad.

More on the Todt Organization (1942-1945 under Albert Speer pertains to Fricis): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organisation_Todt

Ancestor Story: Arturs Akerfelds

Arturs Akerfelds, c. 1948

Arturs Akerfelds was born August 20, 1925 on Skrundenieki farm, Brinkenhof estate, the eldest child of Janis Akerfelds and Anna Ziverts. He was quite presumably named after his uncle Arturs Ziverts. He would have attended Nikrace pamatskola (pictured in this post: http://chelli11.wordpress.com/2011/09/10/14/). Arturs would have spent his early years growing up mostly at Skrundenieki, although it’s possible that he spent some time in the early 1940’s working at other farms, as his younger brother Arvids Akerfelds did between 1942 and 1944.

When his family fled Latvia in October of 1944, of course he went with them, via Liepaja-Gotenhafen-Kelsterbach. Because he was of age at the time to be considered a single adult bachelor, he was separated from the rest of the Akerfelds crew for some time during their DP camp days. It appears that from Kelsterbach, he went to Bad Rotenfels, near Gaggenau, south of where the rest of the Akerfelds ended up (Echzell), from November of 1944 until May 1946 (from age 19 to age 20).

The Nazi’s had put together a camp in September of that year in Bad Rotenfels, that held forced labourers (mostly French) who worked in the Daimler-Benz factory. It is estimated that around 500 of them were killed. At some point, Arturs lost his right hand. Whether in some industrial accident, or as punishment from some Nazi officer, I don’t know. This must have been a terrible injury, as you can tell by his signature that he was likely right-handed to begin with, and had to learn to use his left.

After Bad Rotenfels, he rejoined his family at Dieburg, Darmstadt, Neustadt, and finally Augsburg in 1949. This is where he met a local Catholic girl, Luise Goettle, daughter of German WWI veteran and career house-painter Peter Paul Goettle and his second wife, Caecilia Hummel. Arturs and Luise were married on September 15, 1950 in Augsburg, less than a month after the rest of his family departed from Bremerhaven to resettle in the USA.

In his IRO Application, Arturs states that he would like to be resettled to the USA like the rest of his family,  and he did not want to be repatriated to his home country because of the Russian occupation. But, likely because Luise was not a displaced person and so could not be treated as such for resettlement to the USA, he was released into the German economy in February of 1951. And so Arturs and Luise remained in Augsburg, and had 3 children there: Brigitte, Anna and Artur.

Arturs Akerfelds passed away on January 20, 1998 in Augsburg.

Ancestor Story: Arvids’ Labor Service

A closer look at Arvids’ IRO Application Form (which was written in pencil and is quite hard to read. tells me he may have been in the 7318 Latvian Labor Service Corps. Unfortunately, I can’t find anything about this particular unit… I think it is a misspelling of 7132.

A snippet from Arvids Akerfelds' IRO Application Form

A snippet from Arvids Akerfelds' IRO Application Form

The writing at the bottom may provide some clue as to why he returned to Germany illegally from Belgium as well… but it is barely legible.

According to one of my listed resources on the Labor Service, the following were Latvian units:
8252 LS Co (Engr Const) LATVIAN Bad Nauheim (Janis Akerfelds)
8717 LS Co (Engr Const) LATVIAN Großauheim
8850 LS Co (Engr Const) LATVIAN Großauheim (Arturs Ziverts)
7132 LS Co (Engr Const) LATVIAN Mannheim (Arvids Akerfelds)
7566 LS Co (Engr Dump Trk) LATVIAN Mannheim (Karlis Vinakmens)
8361 LS Co (Engr Const) LATVIAN Mannheim

 

http://chelli11.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/us-army-labor-service/

Ancestor Story: The Ziverts’ US Army Services

While I’m on an unusual military kick here, I thought I’d mention that Arvids’ uncle Arturs Ziverts’ family was close by the Akerfelds during the 1945-1950 time period as displaced persons. The Ziverts family consisted of Arturs Ziverts and his wife Katte (nee Akerfelds), their 7 children, Arturs’ two sisters Ida and Olga, and his mother, Jule Dzerve. It seems that Arturs and his second-eldest son Voldemars (the same age as Arvids) also found some employment with the US Forces as the Akerfelds did (although not the Labor Service).
They too went the Liepaja-Gotenhaufen-Kelsterbach route like the Akerfelds, but in November of 1944 when the Akerfelds went to Echzell, Hesse, the Ziverts wound up in Friedberg (also in the state of Hesse) in a forced labor camp. The name of the employer that Arturs worked for was “Conter & Braun”. They worked here at this camp until April of 1945, when they were liberated by the US Army. Once liberated, Arturs and Voldemars were employed by the US Army Tank Divison as labourers. (A note of interest is that when Elvis Presley served in the American Army a decade later, he was stationed in Friedberg at the Ray Barracks), and lived in nearby Bad Nauheim.

Then in July of 1945, they moved to Wiesbaden, Hesse, where the two were employed again as laborers by the US 89 Air Forces Division.
After Wiesbaden, the Ziverts were reunited with the Akerfelds in Bidingen/Dieburg/Darmstadt. Arturs was a general labourer at the first two, and a bricklayer in Darmstadt (like his brother-in-law Janis Akerfelds) In May 1948, Arturs worked for the 8850 Latvian Labor Service as a carpenter.

The Ziverts (Save for Ida, Olga, Irma and Jule Dzerve) left Germany from the port of Bremerhaven, sailing on the SS General Langfitt on March 19, 1950 bound for Berthoud, Colorado.