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“I want to know what has become of the people"

Gustav Gangnus.

Gustav Gangnus spent a week in the archives of the International Tracing Service (ITS) researching the family names Gangnus, Hasenfuss, and Lutz. "I have mainly private motives for my research," says the 75-year-old. "I was born in Riga, where my ancestors were members of the colony Hirschenhof in Livonia in the Baltics. I want to know what happened to the people there, especially during the time of National Socialism."

At the end of the 18th century, Tsarina Katarina allowed some 300 Germans to immigrate to Latvia. She wanted the more sparsely populated regions to become more inhabited. And so, the colony Hirschenhof was created south of Riga. Over time, the German settlers assimilated into the Riga society. However, after the Hitler-Stalin Pact, most settlers were forced to "voluntarily return" to the German Reich. Some joined the National Socialists, and others lived in camps where they maintained under surveillance for their behavior and loyalty towards Germany.

At the ITS, Gangnus discovered that some branches of the family emigrated to Canada, Australia, and the USA after the end of the war. The settlers who had married people from the Baltics were not Germanized and were therefore registered in the camps for Displaced Persons. Gangnus has published the first results of his research in various articles and in his 2003 book, "From Alsace out into the world." Thanks to the research in the ITS archives, now he can add some information about the whereabouts of the settlers from Hirschenhof.