My mother’s family were not the only ones to have suffered the effects of history. My father’s family, who lived at the time in Courland, were also thrown into turmoil in the years after 1918.
I find the history of that time in Courland, which is now Latvia, difficult to comprehend but I will attempt to give a very brief version, as I understand it. I have translated some information from the genealogical history of our family, written by my cousin Wolf Lackschewitz and some information I have read on the Instagram site of Nurmuizas.pils.
In 1566, Georg von Fircks bought the village of Nurme from his brother in law Christopher Hoerde. Here Georg built a mighty castle at the end of the 16th century called Nurmhusen, which had lands of 14,010 hectares and became the family seat. The von Fircks were one of the most influential families of the Livonian knights; their influence, wealth and power lasting until the end of the 18th century. In his will Georg von Fircks stated that the land and grounds should forever remain in possession of only males and only the male descendants of his blood and name. Daughters and widows must be looked after, presumably by the male heirs. Peter von Fircks, my grandfather, was the 13th and last owner of Nurmhusen.
In 1914 my grandparents moved to Nurmhusen when my grandfather’s older half-brother died without a male heir. My grandparents and their three children fled their home in 1918, either because of the Russian Revolution, or the Latvian War of Independence, or both. For me the reason is unclear, although I do know they feared the arrival of the Bolsheviks, but the result is that my father, the youngest of their children, was born a refugee in Germany.
In 1920 Nurmhusen was expropriated by the young Latvian State. Former Baltic German owners were only allowed to keep 50 hectares of land and in 1924 the government decided they would receive no compensation for the land which was taken from them. It was in 1924 my grandparents decided to move their family back to Latvia but, as they no longer owned Nurmhusen, they relocated to the town of Mitau.
In 1933 my grandmother died. In 1939, as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (The Treaty of Non-aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), Latvia was assigned to the “Soviet sphere of influence” and Hitler ordered the transfer of all Baltic Germans to areas under German military control. My grandfather was relocated to Poland, where he was most likely given land which had been forcibly taken from its Polish owners. By that time my father and his brother had been drafted into the German army. As far as I know, neither my grandfather, my father or any or his siblings ever went back to Nurmhusen.
I first visited Nurmhusen in 2014 and then again last year with two of my sons. It is in the process of being restored to its former glory by its new owner. I hope I will be able to visit it again some time.