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 :)
 

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: Augsburg Stadtarchiv

Another resource I have tapped into recently has been the Augsburg State Archives in Germany. Before I contacted the archives, I already knew that Arvids’ eldest brother Arturs Akerfelds had, during their time in Germany, fallen in love and married a native German girl named Luise Gottle. When the time came for his family to be resettled in the US, he applied for resettlement as well but was denied (likely due to Luise not being a displaced person).
I had always wondered what had happened to Arturs, especially since he was recorded as being an “invalid” after losing his right hand in some kind of accident. But apparently he joined the German workforce in 1951.
I wrote to the Augsburg archives and received Arturs and Luise’s marriage information, Arturs’ death date, and the birthdates and names of their 3 children. For tracking purposes, I was lucky that Arturs remained in Augsburg for the rest of his life, so he was relatively easy to find.
Note that the archives charged me 20.00 EU to send me this information, so be prepared to pay a fee if you ask for records from an archives!