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: Arturs Ziverts, Part 1

Arturs Ziverts was born November 15, 1901 at 6 in the evening, at Skrundenieki farm on Brinkenhof estate. He was the fourth child of Indriks Ziverts, a farmer, and his wife Jule Dzerve. He was baptised December 2, 1901 at Embute Parish Lutheran church. I haven’t figured out who it lists his godparents as yet…

(click to enlarge) Arturs Ziverts' baptismal Record

Arturs had many siblings, I know of 8 siblings thus far, born between 1896 and 1919 (Klaus, Fricis, Peteris, Arturs, Lucija, Anna, Olga, Ida). There is a 10 year gap in my knowledge of these siblings between 1905 and 1915 where Raduraksti’s churchbooks stop, so it is likely that there are even more. The 2 youngest siblings of Arturs, Olga and Ida born in 1915 and 1919, I know of from the 1935 census, as they were young enough to still be living at home at the time.

Arturs married Katte Akerfelds around 1925 (Possibly April 23, 1924, as this is the date she is recorded as living at Skrundenieki since). Around that same time, his little sister Anna married Katte’s brother Janis, who also began living at Skrundenieki, bringing his mother Ieva Sedols with him (It’s quite possible these 2 couples were married on the same day – the census of 1941 reads that Janis had been living at Skrundenieki since April 23, 1922, but it is hard to read, and Janis and Anna’s first son was not born until August of 1925, so I wonder if it actually reads “1924”).

In the interwar period (between WWI and WWII; 1918-1940), during Latvia’s independence, many reforms to the governmental and social systems were made, including a reform that allowed ownership of land to pass to the people, the peasants who worked on it, rather than greedy German land barons. It is probable that Skrundenieki came into Arturs’ father Indriks’ possession during this time, around the early 1920’s (Although as a side note, it is possible that with a surname like Ziverts in a fairly Germanized area with Siebert families around, Skrundenieki was in Indriks’ possession before the land reforms.. TBD). Indriks must have died somewhere between 1919, when his last child was born, and 1935 when the census was taken, because ownership of Skrundenieki had passed to Arturs by 1935. Why Arturs and not one of his 3 older brothers? I am not sure, and I don’t know where the brothers ended up either, although Arturs does say that some brothers had been deported to Siberia in an IRO document later on.

Arturs and Katte had 8 children – three boys and five girls, the eldest was a son born in October of 1927. Three of their children, born in 1933, 1942 and 1944, were born in Liepaja. The latter was born during their flight from Latvia with the retreating German army, but the two in 1933 and 1942 require some special consideration. I can’t really figure out why Arturs and Katte would have left their farm for a brief period to go to Liepaja twice. They returned to Skrundenieki shortly after the births, both times. So what were they doing in Liepaja for a year or two? I am not quite sure yet!

Roadblock: Ziverts

Well, a thorough search of Embute’s German congregation baptismal records turned up no baptism for my Indriks Ziverts. I guess this leaves me with two possibilities: 1. He was born elsewhere, or 2. He was born between 1852 and 1871. Probably the latter, although since his wife was born in late, late 1877 I was banking on him being less than 6 or 7 years older than her.

The search did make a few more Siebert/Siewert/Sihwert/Ziverts connections though, as it turned up some other Siewerts families in the area. The most interesting is Klaus Sihwerts and his wife Lina Grinbergs (Grinbergs, of all things {alias Akerfelds??}) of Brinkenhof, who were married in 1881 and had at least 3 children baptised in Embute between 1882 and 1888. This is interesting because Indriks and Jule’s first son is named Klaus, and one of his godparents is Klaus Ziverts. Could he be a brother of Indriks? Here is a snippet from Indriks’ son Klaus’ baptism record, listing his godparents, Klaus Schano (sp?) Ziverts, and Karlis Jekabsons… I can’t quite make out the words in between, although it seems that Klaus is recorded as evangelical lutheran.

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Roadblock: Indriks Ziverts/Siebert?

I still can’t find his birth record… Ziverts is the Latvian spelling for this surname, but it is Sihwert or Siewert in German… There are ethnic Germans in the area named Siebert, and while I can’t prove that the Ziverts descended from ethnic Germans just yet, I have thus far been ignoring the German congregation church records in favour of the ethnic Latvians. I think it’s time to check out the German congregation for an Indriks Siebert born around 1875… One more resource at my fingertips to exhaust.

Document: Ziverts Church Book Conundrum

**update: these findings have led me to take a closer look at Indriks’ baptismal record, and I’ve decided that I have the wrong one! I believe the surname here is “Straute” or something, (there are more of them in Embute) but not “Sivards” like I thought. Ziverts is usually “Sihwerts” or “Siewerts” in German anyway… Back to the drawing board for Indriks’ baptismal record!**

Going through the church books to find my Ziverts ancestors, I’ve come across a little bump in the road. Indriks Ziverts, my great great grandfather, is listed as the son of Karlis and Karline, of Backhusen estate. I have found a birth record (previously posted) for a Karlis Ziverts that fits the time period, a marriage for a Karlis Ziverts, and possible siblings for Indriks. Everything fit together at first glance… Except that the “siblings” and marriage I have found belong to a Karlis and KATRine(Ozolnieks), not KARLine. Also they’re listed at Dinsdorf estate, not Backhusen. No other signs of Karlis and Karline Ziverts. A transcription error by the priest who wrote the entry? Am I reading the name “Karline” wrong? Did the family move briefly to Backhusen, then back to Dinsdorf? Definitely not enough to hang my hat on.
I am going to check through the Gramzdas draudze church book, as some of the residents of some estates in the area seem to have attended this church instead of the further Embute, but I’m not sure what results this will yield as Backhusen is definitely closer to Embute.

**Sometimes making sure you have all the details, and a straight story can really help save you from making a big mistake and wasting a lot of time – good thing I didnt elaborate too far based on the first baptismal record I wanted to believe was Indriks’!**

More on Indriks Ziverts:
http://chelli11.wordpress.com/2011/09/17/indriks-ziverts/

Timeline: Indriks Ziverts

**update: I have decided that this is not the birth record of Indriks Ziverts. The surname looks to me more like “Strasds” or something to the like. There’s more of this surname in Embute. The rest of the info about Indriks here is accurate, but I do believe the search for his baptismal record is back on**

Indriks Straute

 

To me, it looks like this record has some Russian cyrillic letters mixed in with the German, but Indriks, as well as everyone else listed on the page has a “someone Von Lundberg” named in their baptism. A landowner/baron? The pastor? Sounds pretty German to me, so that would be my best guess. Along with Von Lundberg, I can make out Lize Berzins, and Indriks and Bille Jankowski (sp?) Jankowski is a guess, but there are other Jankowskis in the area. These 3 are godparents I assume? Not very helpful just yet but they may be good clues later.

Indriks married Jule Dzerve around 1895. From then on, they resided at Skrundenieki (according to the 1941 census).

Their first child, Klavs Schanis (sp?) was born one day in April 1896 at 11pm, at Skrundenieki. (I haven’t made out the exact day yet). He was baptised at Embute. His parents are both listed as Lutheran, and his godparents are Klavs Schanis Ziverts and Karlis Jekabsons.

Their second child Peteris was born November 28, 1897 at 10 am. He was baptised December 26, 1897 at Embute and his godparents were Peteris Ziverts, Karlis Jekabsons and Lawise Dzerve.

Their third child Fricis was born June 9, 1900 at 5am. He was baptised June 24, 1900 at Embute.

Their fourth child Arturs was born November 2, 1901 at 7pm. He was baptisted December 2, 1901 at Embute.

Their fifth child Lucija was born in Agugust of 1904 at 6pm (havent made out the day yet). She was baptised that October at Embute.

There were more children, the youngest, Ida was born in 1919 I believe. Again their birth information does not yield much useful information yet, but the godparents may be helpful later when I know more.

Combing through the Embute church books from 1852 back seems to be my only lead. I may finally have to take a crack at the revision lists on Raduraksti too. It does look positive that I may be able to find the next generation here. All I need to do is find the time to go through the records!

Blog: Nigrande to Priekule

http://walkacrosslatvia2008.blogspot.com/2008/08/day-22-past-nigrande-to-priekule.html

I just stumbled across this blog by accident. This man walked across Latvia from east to west, and happened to go right through the Akerfelds/Ziverts home county. Check out some of his pictures and read his tale! Nikrace and Embute are between Nigrande and Priekule.