Ancestor Story: Karlis and the Three Armies

I’m trying to prove the family story that Karlis Vinakmens had been in 3 different armies within 20 years. I am making a little headway as I begin to understand the history of these armies. My mother remembers Karlis saying that if he ever returned to Latvia, he would be killed immediately.

The clue that sparked this challenge is the picture above. The pictures here are said to have been taken in 1934, 1944 and 1954, in the Latvian, German and American armies, with the cross in the middle as a military award.

In Karlis’ International Refugee Organization (IRO) application form, it is clear that something is written about his time as both a Latvian Naval Aviator and as part of the Latvian resistance movement. There is also a section listing his personal documents he had with him in Germany, clearly saying something from the Latvian Resistance movement, and Lettland Luftwaffe Division (Latvian Airforce Division).

Can you decipher the German text about Karlis’ residences? “Im Walde…”

Can you decipher the German text about Karlis’ employment? “Im Walde….”

Can you decipher the German text about Karlis’ documents? “Lettland …Luftwaffe Division… Chief of the Latvian Resistance Movement”

Also as proof of his time in the Latvian Resistance is his listing in an article by the Latvian President’s history commission in 2006, written by Uldis Neiburgs “Association of the Participants of the Latvian Resistance Movement (LPKDA) and Its Documentation about the Resistance Movement in Nazi-Occupied Latvia (1941–1945)” (sidenote: I added this document on the sidebar as a searchable database, for anyone else’s reference).

For the American army bit, Karlis was employed with the Labor Service Co. This is proven in his IRO application form as well and is not much of a mystery.

The German army is the most difficult for me to prove. My best guesses are that he was either: conscripted by the German army during the Nazi occupation, OR he eventually surrendered to the German army near the end of his Resistance Movement days in order to serve the best interests of his wife and daughters, OR he worked for the German army as a displaced person while in Germany. The only possibly concrete evidence of this I have come across is on one of Karlis’ 2 DP Cards, his occupation is “bildhauer” and his other occupation is “ ”C” CO. 30 INF.” which seems to be a listing of an army infantry unit. Whether this is the German one or not I don’t know yet, it could be any army as far as I know at this point. Searching for this kind of information is proving to be a little difficult!

What army is this snippet from Karlis’ DP Card referring to?

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

Sunday’s Obituary: Zigurds Melderis

Zigurds “Ziggy” Melderis

Date of Birth: Friday, October 4th, 1929

Date of Death: Friday, March 10th, 2006

 Passed away peacefully on Friday, March 10, 2006 at West Parry Sound Health Centre at the age of 76.

Beloved husband of the late Aija (Latuns) Melderis who passed away in 1994. Loving father of Andy Melderis and his wife Carol. Ziggy will be dearly missed by his special friend Rasma.

Ziggy was born October 4, 1929 in Latvia. A long time resident of Kitchener, he retired as foreman from Warren Bitulithic Ltd. after 34 years of dedicated service. In 1990 he moved with his wife and mother, Vilma, to their home on the lake in Parry Sound to enjoy his many hobbies.

Ziggy’s family will receive friends at the Henry Walser Funeral Home, 507 Frederick St., Kitchener (749-8467) on Monday from 7-9 p.m. and on Tuesday from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. A funeral service for Ziggy will be held in the funeral home chapel on Wednesday, March 15, 2006 at 2 PM. Interment will take place at Parkview Cemetery, followed by a reception.

As expressions of sympathy, memorial donations to the Canadian Cancer Society would be appreciated by the family (cards available at the funeral home). Visit http://www.obitsforlife.com/obituary/113894/Melderis-Zigurds.php for Ziggy’s memorial.

Zigurds Melderis and his wife Aija, at what appears to be some kind of Christmas party in Germany. Aija is wearing the plaid skirt and Zig is next to her with the child in his lap. Arvids Akerfelds and presumably Rasma Vinakmens are seated across the table.

Zig was a close family friend to my grandmother and grandfather. It seems to be that he probably served in the US Army Labor Service Co. with my grandfather Arvids in Germany. I’m not entirely sure what town in Latvia he hailed from, but I believe he may have been a family friend even earlier than the Labor Service days.

He was born October 4, 1929 to Andrejs Melderis and Vilma Riekstins (“Melderis” means “Miller” and “Riekstins” means “little nuts”. He married Aija Latuns and immigrated to Canada after WWII. My grandmother Rasma went to live with Zig in Parry Sound in the late 1990′s, both being widowers. Zig was a wonderful man and I enjoyed many visits to his home in Parry Sound before his death from cancer in 2006, a year before my grandmother would also pass away from cancer.

His mother Vilma lived almost as long as he did – she was 102 years old at the time of her death in 2004(http://obitsforlife.com/obituary/114745/Melderis-Vilma.php), and was still healthy enough to have been living with Zig in Parry Sound until only a few months before her death, I believe.

Zigurds Melderis, Arvids Akerfelds and Karlis Vinakmens, enjoying brewing their own beer here in Kitchener, Ontario

Top: Vilma Riekstins, Berta Ozolins and Karlis Vinakmens. Bottom: Zigurds Melderis, Aija Latuns, Arvids Akerfelds and Rasma Vinakmens, in Kitchener, Ontario.

Ancestor Story: Janis Rudolfs Vinakmens, Part 3

Janis and his family settled in Wisconsin, USA after a brief period in South Dakota. His wife Emma passed away in Wisconsin in 1959 at the age of either 45 or 57, depending on which Emma she turns out to be. Janis eventually remarried another Latvian woman named Zeltite. What I know of Janis in his latter years is that he enjoyed painting. In his niece’s (my grandmother’s) possessions at the time of her death were at least 2 paintings by Janis. Both are of a beach, one is at night and one is during the day.

Janis Rudolfs passed away in Wisconsin in June of 1987, at the age of 82.

All his siblings (except for Arnolds, who’s fate I do not know) made it past the age of 80, which is pretty incredible considering the odds!

Janis Rudolfs Vinakmens, in his brother Karlis Vinakmens' backyard in Kitchener, Ontario c. 1985ish

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!