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.

Ancestor Story: Janis Rudolfs Vinakmens, Part 2

As the Soviet army re-occupied Latvia and pushed back the Nazis in the latter half of the year 1944, the time came for many Latvians to flee, rather than face what the Soviet government had in store for them.  Janis, Emma and their two young children did just that.

I’m starting to think they must have met with Janis’ brother Karlis Vinakmens and his family, as the two families stuck together until 1947. Likely, Janis and company went west to Liepaja, where they were able to board a ship bound for the huge, German-controlled port of Gotenhafen. Karlis and co. spent from December 1944 to May 1945 at Gotenhafen, so it’s quite likely that Janis and family did as well. The two families next went to Hilburghausen, Germany for less than a month, then to Marburg, Germany in June of 1945, where it’s very likely that Janis was employed by the US Army as a labourer, as was his brother Karlis.

The ports of Liepaja and Gotenhafen, route of many Latvian refugees

After Marburg, the brothers and their families were separated. Janis and his family were sent to a place called Ludwigshohe, Darmstadt in Hesse, Germany, on October 21, 1946 while Karlis and co. were off to Belgium.  Here in Darmstadt, Janis and Emma’s third child was born in late 1946.

It’s possible that they were sent to one or two more camps before their time as refugees was over, but I do not have any record of that. The next record I have of Janis’ family is their ship’s passenger manifest. On August 14th, 1949, Janis, Emma and their three children sailed out of Bremerhaven, Germany aboard the SS General C.H. Muir bound for Elk Point, South Dakota, USA.

USS General C.H. Muir: http://chelli11.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/uss-general-c-h-muir/

Old Photo: Where is This Rollercoaster?

Do YOU know where this rollercoaster is??

This is a picture of my grandparents Arvids Akerfelds and Rasma Vinakmens. On the back of this photo is written “Mai 1955″, so they were definitely in Germany. Arvids looks like he is still serving in the Labor Service, although where he was stationed at this time I do not know. Some of my grandmother’s other photos from around this time period are labelled “Freiburg”. I haven’t been able to find any information about where this rollercoaster might have been!

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.

Old Photo: Karlis in the Labor Service

The more knowledge I acquire, the more I can discern from every record I’ve found so far. I passed most of my grandmother’s old photos over at first, gleaning no useful hints from them. Silly me!

This picture is of Karlis Vinakmens, c. 1954 in Germany. The uniform he is wearing is typical of the US Army Labour Service Co at the time. You can just barely make out his shoulder badge.

Although it is impossible to discern which of these two the patch is, it was quite likely one of the two pictured above. The unit I know he was a part of, the 7566 LS Co, was indeed a Latvian unit. 

The other insignia that stands out is the triangular one above the flower. It could be one of these, or a variation:

Karlis’ appears to be sideways though. I havent found a sideways triangle pictured anywhere yet!

Will return to this post when more information is upturned :)