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Latvian Soldiers in the German Military Cemetery of Lommel, Belgium

Latvian Soldiers in the German Military Cemetery of Lommel, Belgium

2017. gada 27. oktobris

After the expedition to the German Military Cemetery in Lommel (a town in Belgium), museum specialists have identified and listed the Latvian soldiers buried there in 1945-1946. This list will now be used by the German military cemetery research centre Huis “Over Grenzen” (House "Across Borders") to add information to memorial plaques, which have errors, in the cemetery.

Latvian citizens, who were forced to fight for one foreign power – Nazi Germany – against another foreign power – the Soviet Union, were buried in this cemetery. They fled to the Western allies at the end of the war, hoping for support and understanding, and became Prisoners of War to the British.

Article by Evita Feldentāle, Audio-video archive specialist, the Museum of the Occupation of the Latvia.

Latvian Soldiers in the German Military Cemetery of Lommel, Belgium

From 21 to 24 July 2017, the Reverend Guntis Kalme and two historians, Evita Feldentāle and Andrejs Feldmanis, and video operator Aivars Reinholds, from the Audio-Visual Archive of the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia travelled to Lommel in Belgium in order to check which Latvian soldiers were buried in its German Military Cemetery. This is the largest German Military Cemetery in Western Europe. Altogether it contains 39 108 fallen soldiers – 483 from the First World War, the rest from the Second World War. They were brought to Lommel for reburial from other cemeteries that had been established in Belgium and Germany from 1940 to 1944. Of the interred soldiers about 1 200 were under age, and there are also some graves of women. Altogether the interred represent 15 different nationalities. To this date, the Cemetery staff has not been able to identify about 6 000 of the soldiers [1].

There are a number of Latvians among the nationalities represented. Most of them were reburied in Lommel in August of 1946 from the German Military Cemetery in Ostend where a hospital was located and ill Latvian legionnaires had been sent from the Zedelgem POW camp No. 2227. Those who died in the POW camp and in the Ostend hospital were initially buried in the Ostend German Military Cemetery.

Why was it necessary to check the actual grave stones? The initially available information stated simply that about 80 Latvians were buried in Lommel but gave no further details. Identification was also encumbered because the inscriptions were corroded and unreadable in the cemeteries where the soldiers had been buried initially. Most probably due to illegible hand writing, names were misspelled, for example: Kārlis Kiršteins rests in Lommel as Kistens, Ludvigs Krūmiņš has become Ludwig, Harijs Klints – Harrys Klints, Jānis Bērziņš – Janis Berzius, etc (see illustrations #1-4). Even when looking for Latvian names in the Cemetery itself it is possible to miss some because one may not recognise Rosenstock Eduard as the Latvian Eduards Rozenštoks. Similarly, seeking Oskars Rējnieks one may not recognise him under the name Risreyikils that has resulted from reburial and rewriting of lists of names.

Finding Jānis Kārlis Oldermanis (b. 1923) was difficult because the present name plate in Lommel reads Oldermanns. Others, whose identification has been lost, are designated as unknown and labelled “EIN DEUTSCHER SOLDAT” (a German soldier). This investigation is an attempt to compare all available lists and to find information about the Latvian soldiers who are labelled as unknown in Lommel.

Before our trip to Belgium, we had two lists of Latvian solders buried in Lommel. One was from the book by Vilis Hāzners: “Laiks. Telpa. Ļaudis.” (Time. Place. People) first part (it lists 79 persons) [2]. The second was a list compiled in Brussels in 1983 by the Belgian section of the Daugavas Vanagi organisation [3] and listing 84 persons[4]. This list was used for comparison with the grave stones in Lommel because in most cases it also named the section and place where each soldier was buried. That helped us find the Latvians whose names were seriously misspelled. The list was compared with the information on the grave stones in the Cemetery and also in the Cemetery name books (“Namenbuch”) where all the known interred soldiers are listed alphabetically according to their surnames.

After our return from Lommel, we obtained a third list prepared in 1974 by the curator of the archive of the Latvian Legion, Oskars Caunītis, and listing 80 persons [5]. Lastly, we also used the Zelegem POW camp materials from the Latvian War Museum in Rīga. All camp inmates are listed there in three note books and include military rank, army unit, birth date and some dates of death [6].

The Lommel German Military Cemetery has 63 sections [7]. If a soldier’s name is known, the section and place of the grave can be found. Most of the known Latvian soldiers are buried in sections 62 (30), 61 (27) and 63 (12). Three rest in section 24 and one each in sections 37, 47 and 57. According to the Daugavas Vanagu list of 1983, the section and place of the graves of nine Latvians is unknown. When this list was compared to the information available in Lommel it was seen that the actual grave markers and the list did not always agree. Several disagreements seem to be due to identical surnames. For example: the 337th grave of section 63 has information about Arvīds Tauriņš (b. 1925) but the list has question marks next to the name indicating that the location of his grave is not known, and the same grave site, section 63 grave 337, is listed as the grave of Imants Tauriņš (b. 1926). It seems that during reburial either Arvīds or Imants Tauriņš was “lost” and further research is needed to determine who rests in grave 337 of section 63. Since the supervisor of the German Military Cemetery in Lommel, Huis Over Grenzen, has no information about Imants Tauriņš, it must be assumed that he rests in one of the graves marked “EIN DEUTSCHER SOLDAT” (a German soldier). This information will be submitted to Huis Over Grenzen data bank and also to the “Namenbuch” of the Cemetery. A similar situation seems to be with Arvīds Kārkliņš (b. 1907) and Arvīds Kārkliņš (b. 1927). In section 63 grave 278 is marked with the name Arvīds Kārkliņš born 1907, but in the first three lists the date of birth of Arvīds Kārkliņš is given as 1927. On comparison with the lists from the War Museum, it becomes clear that there were two soldiers with the same name, but only one grave site is known. There also remains the question of the date of death because the exact same date is given for both. New information from the War Museum lists will be given to the Cemetery staff concerning eight men buried in Lommel who so far have not been identified. These soldiers are: Private First Class Fricis Jansons (b. 1915), Sergeant Edgars Skomba (b. 1904), Private Jānis Krūmiņš (b. 1925), Private Elmārs Lanka (b. 1926), Private Kārlis Jēkabs Lauva (b. 1919), Private Arnolds Melngalvis (b. 1925), Ēvalds Resnis (b. 1922), Private First Class Alberts Zariņš (b. 1922). Other lists show for the first time Private Ivans Smirnovs (b. 1914) and Private First Class Kārlis Meivalds (b. 1925).

In one case the information on the grave marker was more complete than our list. This was the case of Private Valentīns Krimelis (b. 1908). The list showed only his surname, nothing else. The information on the grave marker was checked against the War Museum data and that confirmed that it really was Valentīns Krimelis although his name was not included in the other two lists.

Only the list in Hāzner’s book and the compilation of Caunītis include Private Arvīds Kauliņš (b. 1925) and that is an addition to previously known names and will be submitted to the Huis Over Grenzen data base. The situation of Private Jānis Studens (b. 1924) is similar. He rests in grave 433 of section 63 but his name is only on the grave marker and the War Museum list. However, all lists include the name of Private Francis Students (b. 1907). Further research is needed because the same death date is recorded for both names – perhaps by mistaking them as the same person. The clarification would reduce by one the number of unknown soldiers in the Lommel cemetery.

Other inconsistencies were found in birth and death dates – most probably due to mistakes in rewriting them. In some cases it is no longer possible to correct death dates, especially when two persons with the same name have been mixed up as is the case of the two Tauriņš.

It is also well known that all of the Latvian soldiers resting in Lommel were not in the Zedelgem POW camp. For example, First Sergeant Harijs Klints died during an air attack on Belgium on 1 January 1945. Also Private First Class Alfons Sinka (b. 1923) died during the war on 21 December 1944, as well as Kārlis Likānis (b. 1907) on 27 January 1945. Further research is needed to check whether there are other Latvian soldiers in the Cemetery who died during the war and were not in Zedelgem. There have been previous attempts to identify other Latvian soldiers in the Cemetery, but they have not produced useful results. In one case names were identified as possibly Latvian but on further investigation of birth and death dates they turned out to be names of German soldiers – possibly of Prussian origins such as Klimpa, Polis, Sams, Spura, Egle [8].

The updated list of the Latvian legionnaires buried in the German Military Cemetery in Lommel follows. It includes names, birth and death dates and military rank.

The Latvian Association of Belgium organises a commemoration service in the Cemetery every June. While we were there in July, the Reverend Guntis Kalme conducted a special service. The new information obtained has been submitted to the Lommel Cemetery and its supervising organisation – Huis Over Grenzen. It has revealed the identities of several previously unknown fallen soldiers.

The trip to Lommel received financial support from Daugavas Vanagi organisations in Canada and the USA.  

Latvians buried in the German Military Cemetery of Lommel, Belgium

Pr = Private; PrFC = Private First Class; C = Corporal; FS = First Sergeant; AFA = Air Force Auxiliary; S = Sergeant; WO = Warrant Officer

 

Surname, first name, rank

Birth and death dates

Section/place

Comment

1.

Anstips Rolands, Pr.

27.04.1924.-09.03.1946.

61/212

 

2.

Balodis Jānis, Pr.

26.11.1927.-13.03.1946.

61/382

 

3.

Bauga Edgars, PrFC.

21.10.1921.-22.02.1946.

62/93

 

4.

Belochvoščiks Francis, C.

01.04.1912.-20.01.1946.

62/251

 

5.

Bērziņš Jānis, PrFC.

06.07.1915.-20.01.1946.

62/252

 

6.

Bluķis Kārlis, Pr.

01.05.1910.-12.12.1945.

62/26

 

7.

Bruzgulis Jānis, Pr.

03.06.1910.-11.04.1946.

63/332

 

8.

Bušmanis Ansis, C.

19.07.1907.-11.01.1946.

61/195

 

9.

Dirba Rūdolfs, Pr.

18.05.1926.-16.02.1946.

62/280

 

10.

Dobelis Alfrēds, PrFC.

30.06.1911.-15.09.1945.

57/417

 

11.

Erbs Jēkabs, C.

01.01.1923.-10.12.1945.

62/165

 

12.

Fenskis Kurts, Pr.

30.07.1925.-10.03.1946.

62/192

 

13.

Fišers Ernests, Pr.

08.04.1909.-07.12.1945.

62/168

 

14.

Fridrichsons Edvīns, Pr.

 

06.05.1926.-04.04.1946.

61/537

 

15.

Gailis Ēriks, Pr.

13.07.1925.-13.03.1946.

61/237

 

16.

Grasis Vilhelms, C.

21.01.1916.-15.02.1946.

62/279

 

17.

Graube Broņislavs, Pr.

11.11.1923.-02.04.1946.

61/468

 

18.

Grāvītis Valdis, Pr.

20.05.1921.-05.01.1946.

61/509

 

19.

Greste Edgars, VO.

25.05.1911-25.01.1946

62/100

 

20.

Grīnbergs Fricis, Pr.

21.08.1925.-17.01.1946.

62/431

Date of death! -1.09.1945

21.

Grīnvalds Valdis, Pr.

21.03.1923.-17.03.1946.

61/258

 

22.

Ikšelis Ādolfs, Pr.

27.02.1909.-27.02.1946.

61/518

 

23.

Jansons Fricis, PrFC.

08.12.1915.-10.11.1945.

?/?

 

24.

Kārkliņš Arvīds, Pr.

21.11.1927.- 29.04.1946.

?/?

Date of death may not be precise

25.

Kārkliņš Arvīds, Pr.

07.12.1907.-29.04.1946.

63/278

Date of death may not be precise

26.

Kauliņš Arvīds, Pr.

03.03.1925.-29.04.1946.

?/?

 

27.

Ķirsis Jānis, Pr.

02.11.1908.-03.01.1946.

62/7

 

28.

Kiršteins Ēriks, Pr.

29.09.1925.-06.03.1946.

62/87

 

29.

Kiršteins Kārlis, Pr.

27.07..1924.-25.05.1946.

63/323

 

30.

Kļaviņš Edgars, Pr.

02.04.1914.-09.01.1946.

62/267

 

31.

Klints Harijs, FS.

06.04.1918.-01.01.1945.

37/470

(did not die in Zedelgem)

32.

Klints Jānis, PrFC.

16.03.1901.-14.03.1946.

61/238

 

33.

Krimelis Valentins, Pr.

 

30.09.1908-27.11.1945

61/239

 

34.

Krūklis Fricis, PrFC.

01.09.1908.-17.11.1945.

61/313

 

35.

Krūmiņš Jānis, Pr.

 

30.05.1925.-22.10.1945.

?/?

 

36.

Krūmiņš Ludvigs, Pr.

24.10.1922.-21.04.1946.

63/279

 

37.

Kulpe Kārlis, Pr.

 

04.08.1907.-13.12.1945.

62/25

 

38.

Kurzemnieks Kārlis, PrFC.

20.01.1907.-02.02.1946.

62/94

 

39.

Lagzdiņš Vilis, Pr.

 

02.06.1921.-17.02.1946.

62/335

 

40.

Lanka Elmārs, Pr.

02.11.1926.-30.09.1945.

?/?

 

41.

Lauciņš Jēkabs, Pr.

24.05.1906.-22.01.1946.

62/182

 

42.

Lauva Kārlis Jēkabs, Pr.

29.09.1919.-29.03.1946.

?/?

 

43.

Leitis Kārlis Ludvigs, Pr.

10.02.1913.-17.02.1946.

62/190

 

44.

Likāns Kārlis, PrFC.

05.09.1927.-27.01.1946.

24/67

 

45.

Likanis Karlis

05.09.1907-27.01.1945

?/?

 

46.

Lūsis Jānis, Pr.

09.09.1926.-17.03.1946.

61/286

 

47.

Lūsis Kārlis, Pr.

20.09.1919.-26.03.1946.

61/363

 

48.

Magone Arvīds, AFA.

23.12.1927.-22.02.1946.

61/560

 

49.

Melngalvis Arnolds, Pr.

13.11.1925.-18.03.1946.

?/?

 

50.

Meņģelsons Augusts, Pr.

04.02.1926.-23.03.1946.

61/210

 

51.

Miķelsons Valdis, Pr.

19.09.1925.-25.04.1946.

63/338

 

52.

Mīters Emīls, Pr.

23.08.1923.-10.02.1946.

62/183

 

53.

Neivalds Kārlis, PrFC.

02.02.1925.-13.12.1945.

61/507

Meivalds? 1895

54.

Oldermanis Jānis (Kārlis), C.

24.08.1923.-21.05.1946.

63/324

 

55.

Orlovskis Leopolds, PrFC.

27.08.1912.-31.12.1945.

62/36

 

56.

Pīlādzis Jānis, Pr.

04.03.1911.-08.12.1945.

62/166

 

57.

Podiņš Edgars, Pr.

01.09.1925.-13.06.1946.

47/201

 

58.

Priede Voldemārs, Pr.

16.02.1925.-08.03.1946.

61/514

 

59.

Pusilds Aldonis, Pr.

15.09.1924.-28.01.1945.

24/627

 

60.

Rējnieks Oskars, Pr.

 

?-27.05.1946.

63/3

 

61.

Resnis Ēvalds, Pr.

06.05.1922.-24.12.1945.

?/?

 

62.

Roze Alberts, Pr.

01.04.1926.-28.12.1945.

61/483

 

63.

Rozenbergs Mārtiņš, Pr.

23.04.1908.-16.01.1946.

61/486

 

64.

Rozenštoks Eduards, Pr.

17.02.1910.-18.02.1946.

62/179

 

65.

Saldūksnis Jānis, Pr.

14.09.1923.-08.03.1946.

61/505

 

66.

Sarms Mārtiņš, PrFC.

28.10.1907.-04.03.1946.

61/504

 

67.

Savtizikovs Ivstafijs, Pr.

15.08.1922.-25.01.1946.

61/435

Elstilij, Ivstafs, Istavs – variations in the lists

68.

Sinka Alfons, PrFC.

31.03.1923.-21.12.1944.

 

24/97

 

69.

Šķēle Jānis, PrFC.

(03.)04.04.1913.-09.02.1946.

62/177

 

70.

Šķerbergs Vilis, VO.

 

27.09.1902.-28.04.1946.

63/321

 

71.

Skomba Edgars, S.

 

06.12.1904.-?

?/?

 

72.

Smirnovs Jānis, Pr.

08.06.1911.-21.05.1946.

61/545

 

73.

Smirnovs Ivans, Pr.

 

 

02.09.1914.-17.05.1946.

?/?

 

74.

Šņore Kārlis, Pr.

10.10.1914.-24.12.1945.

61/511

 

75.

Šteingolds Arnolds, Pr.

28.07.1920.-14.04.1946.

63/516

 

76.

Štrauss Leonards, AFA.

12.05.1927.-25.02.1946.

61/519

Strauss?

77.

Students Francis, Pr.

20.07.1907.-11.06.1946.

63/433

It is not possible to confirm the identity of the interred soldier

78.

Studens Janis, Pr.

30.11.1924-11.06.1946

63/433

It is not possible to confirm the identity of the interred soldier

79.

Tauriņš Arvīds, AFA.

07.06.1925.-03.05.1946.

63/337

It is not possible to confirm the identity of the interred soldier

80.

Tauriņš Imants, Pr.

13.06.1926.-28.10.1945.

63/337

It is not possible to confirm the identity of the interred soldier

81.

Vācietis Elmārs, Pr.

19.09.1924.-30.05.1946.

63/21

 

82.

Vanags Elmārs, PrFC.

12.01.1922.-28.01.1946.

62/85

 

83.

Vaspāns Vaclavs, PrFC.

22.09.1913.-21.01.1946.

62/266

Vacslavs

84.

Vilnītis Jānis, C.

28.09.1911.-04.12.1945.

62/322

 

85.

Vinogrādovs Jānis, Pr.

20.03.1913.-02.02.1946.

61/501

 

86.

Vinovskis Andrejs, Pr.

23.01.1909.-15.01.1946.

62/421

 

87.

Vistiņš Pauls, Pr.

01.09.1909.-23.01.1946.

62/181

 

88.

Zariņš Alberts, PrFC.

16.01.1922.-28.10.1945.

?/?

 

89.

Zariņš Jānis Elmārs, Pr.

01.03.1925.-07.03.1946.

61/513

 


[1] Military Cemetery. http://www.jbs-lommel.de/en/military-cemetery.html

[2] Hāzners, V. Laiks. Telpa. Ļaudis. 1. daļa. Daugavas Vanagi.1974. 404.-405. lpp.

[3] A welfare organisation established by the Latvian POWs in Zedelgem, December 1945.

[4] Ozols, E. Vācu karavīru kapos Lommelē apglabāto latviešu saraksts. 1983. Brisele. 1.-3. lp.

[5] Caunītis, O. Latviešu Leģiona karavīru saraksts, kuri miruši 1945/46. gados, atrodoties angļu gūstā Beļģijā un apglabāti LOMMELES karavīru kapsētā, Beļģijā. 1974. 1.-2. lp.

[6] Daugavas Vanagu Latviešu leģiona arhīvs (glabājas Latvijas Kara muzejā), Zedelgemas nometnes latviešu karagūstekņu saraksti (1., 2., 3. burtnīca).

[7] Deutscher Soldatenfriedhof 1939/45. Lommel (Belgien). http://www.jbs-lommel.de/en/activities/downloads.html

[8] Ozols, E. Vācu karavīru kapos Lommelē apglabāto latviešu saraksts. 1983. Brisele. 3. lp.

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