Amanuensis Monday: On Repatriation

One of the questions asked by the International Refugee Organization of people displaced by WWII was “Do you wish to return to your country of former residence?” For most Latvians, the answer was no. Not because they did not wish to return home, but because “home” was now occupied and controlled by communist Russia, a regime they had seen destroy their families and friends, more merciless than the German Nazi’s had been. Most certainly a resistance fighter like Karlis Vinakmens, or a German collaborator like his little brother Fricis, could not imagine returning home, as the Soviets would have persecuted them immediately, likely with fatal results. The Akerfelds and Ziverts families had seen brothers and uncles, along with their wives and children heartlessly arrested for no good reason, to be deported to Siberia and die slowly of exposure. 

Most Latvian families wished to immigrate to Canada, the USA, Australia, and even Argentina is recorded on one IRO application I’ve seen. It seems they were not sure where to go, did not care, so long as it was not part of communist USSR.

A snippet from Arturs Ziverts' IRO Application form

Do you wish to return to your country of former residence?” – “Nein” (No)

“If not, why?” – “Weil heimat eisenheim von USSR okkupier. Herscht kommunistische diktatur und terror. Ein bruder getoete und andere nach sibierien deportien” (Because my home country is occupied by the USSR. The government is a communist dictatorship. One brother was killed and nother was deported to Siberia)

Every one of my family members’ IRO applications says the same things: Arvids Akerfelds’ simply states “Political Reasons”, Fricis Vinakmens’ says “I do not like to live under present communist regime”.

After being caught between two great warring world powers in WWII, Latvia had held out hope that the Allied victory would mean the USSR agreeing to recognize their sovereignty. They had hoped that the Allies would restore free independant Latvia. This was not the case, for Latvia and other Soviet-occupied countries (Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Lithuania, Estonia, etc) who would remain under Soviet control until the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

Resource: These Names Accuse

What It Is

There is a book titled “These Names Accuse: Nominal List of Latvians deported to Soviet Russia in 1940-1941″. It was published by the Latvian National Foundation (located in Stockholm, Sweden). The list of names is actually a list of people reported to the authorities in Riga as missing, either by their family members, or friends, or other members of the community.

When the Germans occupied Latvia and took control, organizations such as the Latvian Red Cross and the Latvian Statistical board were established, and tried to compile a list of those murdered by the Soviets and count the human losses. They asked the Latvian public to report those known to have been executed, or deported, or just missing. The first compilation was published in 1942, but reports continued to be received, and supplementary lists were added. As time wore on and the fates of some of those arrested became known, the fate of a person was also added in.

How You Can Use It

In addition to first and last names, the approximate birth date, registration/group number, last known address, and in some cases, the fate of the listed person is included.

The group number indicates under which circumstance the person was deported – the number 2 meant deportation occurred on the night of June 14, 1941. Number 3 meant they were arrested, then removed from prison. Number 4 meant the person had been missing since the collapse of the Russian Empire (this was mostly military personnel) who had been forcibly evacuated to Russia.

Since many of those listed here perished, you are more likely to find information on extended families of ancestors here. In my own experience I discovered brothers and sisters of direct ancestors, however their stories are important too, providing clues and puzzle pieces. Keep in mind that quite likely their arrest and deportation had a formative impact on the family and friends they left behind.

If you’d like to know more about these events:

The full list of names can be found here:

Document: Akerfelds Deportations

Martins, Ernests and Mikelis of Nikrace pagast were all deported to Siberia by the Soviet government for their political beliefs and their involvement with the Aizsargi. There are a collection of books documenting these deportations, “These Names Accuse”, “Political Action in Latvia: NKVD to KGB”, and more. 

Martins was related, but what of Mikelis and Ernests?

 Case Number: 218688/2: Martins, son of Jekabs Akerfelds and Ieva Sedols was born in 1902. He owned Jaunzemji farm in Nikrace. He was accused of being part of the Peasant’s Union government, as well as the commander of the local Aiszargi unit. He was arrested on June 14, 1941 and deported to Vyatlag, Kirov Oblast, Siberia. Here there was a “correctional labor camp” set up for deportees and political prisoners. His wife Anna Zveja and daughter Skaidrite (Rita) Akerfelds (Case Number: 21867/2)  were also arrested on June 14, 1941 and deported to Krasnojarsk, Manas Oblast, Siberia.  Skaidrite was released in Krasnojarsk October 15, 1946. Anna was released Sept 11, 1947. “Released” simply means released. They were not shipped back home. They were basically dropped off in the middle of Siberia to fend for themselves. Note that mother and daughter were also released a year apart. Skaidrite was born in 1937, and would have been 9 years old, separated from her mother and with no idea what happened to her father, or where he was. Martins was not so lucky, and perished in Vyatlag May 17, 1943. 

Mikelis Akerfelds, born in 1897 in Nikrace pagast. After WWII, when Soviet Russia once again had control over Latvia, another wave of Siberian deportations took place. Mikelis was arrested
December 19, 1949, his crime was being a part of the Aizsargi, and a local “policeman” (this is a poor translation courtesy of me).  His fate is not listed. In the 1935 Latvian census, this Mikelis was living with his wife Elizabete and their son Arnolds at Muizaraji farm. Muizaraji was originally owned by Anna Vainovskis, a widow, but by 1941 ownership had passed to Mikelis, who had been living there since November 26, 1921 (likely the date Elizabete and Mikelis were married). Mikelis’ father is not listed, however, prominent Embute parish Akerfelds family Ernests and Annlise already had a son named Mikelis born in 1893. So it is not likely that Ernests was his father. It is entirely possible that my Jekabs was his father, as I have no record of Jekabs and Ieva from 1896-1904. Supposedly my Janis was also born in Nikrace in 1898, but there is no baptismal record for him either. That will remain speculation until I come across further information. What became of Mikelis, and whether or not Elizabete and Arnolds were deported with him I do not know.

Case no. 4046: Finally, Ernests Akerfelds was born in 1905, son of Alberts. He was living at Krogaraji farm in Rudbarzu (north of Nikrace). This is the curveball, since I have not yet found an Alberts Akerfelds born of Jekabs’ generation. He and his wife Anna (daughter of Karlis, born 1903) were arrested March 25, 1949 and deported to Omsk, Siberia. They were released May 21, 1955.

Leitnanta Rubeņa Bataljons

Crazily enough, the other day I stumbled across a quote from Karlis in an article by a man named Uldis Neiburgs, a researcher for the Latvian Occupation Museum. This article directly outlines all activity by Karlis’ Resistance Movement unit. Now If only I could translate it well…
The good news here is, there is someone out there researching and documenting these events. Mr. Neiburgs has to have come across documents regarding Karlis, for he has written about him twice. I have emailed Mr. Neiburgs… wish me luck on the response I receive.

 Here’s the quote:

Leitnanta R. Rubeņa bataljons nākamajā dienā uzbruka SS obergrupenfīrera F. Jekelna štābam, izsitot to no nometnes vietas mežsarga mājās “Novadniekos”. Bijušā rubenieša Kārļa Vīnakmens atmiņās varam lasīt:

“Kā lielākais negadījums, kas vien var būt, pāršalc kureliešu rindas vēsts, ka kritis bataljona komandieris. Viesulim līdzīgi cēlās vīri, metās prettriecienā, lai atriebtu šo sāpīgo zaudējumu. Ar rokas granātām un durkļiem tiek SS vīri atsviesti atpakaļ. Vēl mēģina griezties tie pretīm, bet te nu kaulu zāģis dara savu. Nu jau ašāki zib vācu naglotie papēži, un, neizturot straujo prettriecienu, tie savā aizmugurē nonāk pie straujās Abavas. Daudzi aiz bailēm, daudzi no spīvās uguns pļauti sakrīt straumē, un te nu ložu neskartos pieveic Abavas straujie ūdeņi. Un, kas arī mēģina tikt otrā krastā augšā, to graiza ložu šaltis.”

Latvian Occupation Museum: