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.

Timeline: Displaced Akerfelds Family

The Akerfelds finally left their home at Skrundenieki in October of 1944, following the German army’s retreat west as the Soviet army pushed them back across Latvia. Both Akerfelds and Ziverts families had seen uncles and their families arrested and deported to Siberian gulags by the Soviets, and wanted nothing to do with the Soviet regime. One of the types of documents I received from the ITS was a questionnaire filled out by DP’s explaining why they couldn’t be repatriated to Latvia. Every one of the Akerfelds/Ziverts family who filled out this from stated “I do not like to live under the present communist regime”. Arturs Ziverts and Janis Akerfelds added in that their brothers had been arrested and deported by the Soviets.

Snippet from an IRO Application form

The Akerfelds’ Displaced Persons Timeline:
Early Oct 1944 – Forced to flee Skrundenieki by retreating German army. Fled to Liepaja, Latvia
23 Oct 1944 – Forcibly evacuated from Liepaja to German controlled Gotenhaufen, where they were put in a camp for foreign workers
Late Oct 1944  – Tranferred to a gathering camp for foreign workers at Kelsterbach, Hesse, Germany
Nov 1944 – In Echzell, Hesse, Germany where Janis and the older children would be employed at a sawmill owned by a man named Hermann Mogk III
17 Dec 1944 – third last Akerfelds sibling born in Echzell
May 1945 – Allied forces liberated and occupied Germany at this point. The Akerfelds crew were in a DP Camp in Wiesbaden, the capital of the American occupied state of Hesse where Janis worked for the US Army.
Oct 1945 – the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), takes responsibility for the care of all persons displaced by the war
Feb 1946 – Family transferred to Bidingen, Hesse, Germany
4 May 1946 – Family transferred to Dieburg DP Camp, in Hesse
21 Oct 1946 – Family transferred to Darmstadt DP Camp, where Janis was employed as a bricklayer by the US Army
28 Oct 1946 – Second last Akerfelds sibling born in Darmstadt
1947 – Arvids Akerfelds departed for Belgium to work as a coal miner
Jun 1948 – Family transferred to Neustadt, Hesse Germany. Janis working as a bricklayer for the International Refugee Organization
29 Aug 1948 – youngest Akerfelds sibling is born in Neustadt
Sep 1948 – Janis employed by US Labour Service Corps in Bad Nauheim, Hesse. I do know that a 8252 Latvian LSC was stationed here
29 Oct 1948 – Family traversed through a control centre in Fulda, Hesse
May 1949 – Family transferred once again to Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany where Janis worked as a bricklayer for the International Refugee Organization. Likely the eldest son Arturs met his future wife Luise Gottle here at this time. The DP camp here was called Hochfeld
Aug 1949 – Arvids Akerfelds returns to Germany, turns up at Hanau DP Camp, Hesse.
12 Aug 1950 – Family departed Bremerhaven in northern Germany aboard the SS General Harry Taylor, bound for the USA
15 Sep 1950 – Arturs Akerfelds married Luise Gottle in Augsburg, Germany
27 Feb 1951 – Arturs Akerfelds was released from IRO care to join the German economy
25 Jan 1957 – Arvids Akerfelds departs Germany from Frankfurt, Hesse.

Resource: The International Tracing Service (ITS)

The International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen, Germany is intended to serve the victims of Nazi persecution and their families with information regarding their loved ones they may have lost contact with. Their document collection is hugely extensive, containing everything from International Refugee Organization Registration forms, to Displaced Persons cards, to birth certificates and even personal effects of some individuals. I cannot stress enough how huge their collection is.
I first wrote to the ITS in 2009. I wasn’t sure what I might receive, but I knew that my family members had spent time in DP camps as refugees. I figured they might be able to at least tell me which camps they had resided at, thus tracing their journey from Latvia to the Americas. It took a few months but when I finally received a package rom them in the mail, it contained a huge treasure trove of scanned copies of documents straight from 1940’s-1950’s Europe, including some pictures which suddenly brought a very human aspect to the names, places and dates I had been studying. DP Cards, ID Cards, Refugee Organization application forms detailing, in their own words, their plight from Latvia, past residences, personal employment and education histories… So much information. To this day I am still revisiting to these documents and stumbling upon new facts that either I didn’t understand before or ignorantly disregarded as unimportant.
Along the way on my quest for answers, I have spoken to (internet-speak, anyways!) many other Latvian genealogy or history enthusiasts willing to share some conversation with me. One who has helped me the most so far, is a man named George Jaunzemis, aka Peter Thomas. After reading a post of mine on a Latvian forum in late 2008, he responded to me, pointing out my errors in assumptions about my family’s military past. In our multiple emails back and forth since then, he offered suggestions and information regarding my Latvian families and in the process, bit by bit recounted his tale to me which was and the reason he was so interested in Latvian history. After receiving my package from the ITS, I questioned why he hadn’t written to them yet, in his search (which was a little less straight-forward than mine). He wasn’t sure that they would be able to help him with his complicated situation, but he did write to them at that point. He was presented by the ITS with a boatload of questions upfront, instead of just a document package like myself. Since his information did not fit neatly onto the form that the ITS requests you fill out, he wrote a letter explaining his situation to them, and this is what they found:
http://www.its-arolsen.org/en/press/press_releases/index.html?expand=5164&cHash=84941b5a86
http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/europe/5030187/Kiwi-finds-true-identity-66-years-on

Stories like his put the thrill back in genealogy.

The moral of the story? If you are trying to find relatives who were in a displaced persons camp after WWII, contact the ITS!!  http://www.its-arolsen.org/