By Gerhard P. Bassler
Alfred Valdmanis is better identified in Canada for his notorious position in most effective Joey Smallwood's scheme to industrialize Newfoundland. A Latvian immigrant, he used to be appointed Director common of financial improvement in 1950 with the certainty that via his connections to Europe he might attract German and Baltic industrialists to the remoted, rural island. His impression was once delivered to an abrupt finish whilst, in 1954, he was once charged with defrauding the govt. The media, latching directly to his murky previous and his attainable association with battle criminals, made him the scapegoat of Newfoundland's difficulties, portray him as half comic, half sinister villain.
This was once no longer the 1st time his identify was once hooked up with debatable concerns. Valdmanis's wily political manoeuvring is extra the stuff of fiction than historical past. among 1938, at age 29, and his ironic downfall within the refuge of Canada, he was once a finance minister of pre-war Latvia, a central authority legitimate in the course of the Soviet invasion, a intelligent collaborator below the Nazi career, then, a pal to the Allies, a spokesman for Latvian POW and displaced individuals, and an adviser to the govt of Canada. during this first critical biography of Alfred Valdamis historian Gerhard Bassler casts the tale of this political manipulator and chameleon in new phrases: the usually tragic outcomes of the need to survive.
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Extra info for Alfred Valdmanis and the Politics of Survival
21 Britain was buying much more (especially agricultural pro- Wunderkind in Reborn Latvia, 1908-1938 17 duce) than it sold, while Germany sold more than it bought. In this triangular trade the British provided the sterling reserves with which the Baltic countries could buy German products, a recent study notes. '- 2 Recovery, growth, and prosperity can be credited to policies pursued by the parliamentary coalition governments from 1920 to 1934. Although formed from among a proliferation of between twenty and twenty-seven parties in the one-hundred-seat Saeima, these governments ably defended Latvia's domestic and foreign interests.
The German army entered Libau, which was only thirty kilometres from the German border at that time, as early as August 1914. 5 per cent of it was ethnic German) fled from the advancing German troops who occupied most of Kurland by May 1915,('4 the Valdmanis family stayed in Libau. During the following three years the occupying forces imposed various germanization measures, especially in education. These were intended to prepare for eventual affiliation with Germany. Thus, in his first four years of elementary schooling, Alfred Valdmanis received a German education, an experience of which he later liked to boast when trying to convince some German officials of his alleged proGerman sentiments.
In April 1934 the minister of finance offered the position of senior counsel to Valdmanis but, so the unverifiable story goes, Valdmanis did not want to arrogate the position of his benefactor. Initially, Valdmanis agreed to take the position only on a pro tern basis. Only when Zamuels insisted upon it, did Valdmanis accept a permanent appointment (in November 1934) ,84 No doubt other, perhaps more important reasons prompted Valdmanis's sudden promotion. Ulmanis, after his coup, was in dire need of dependable people, and Valdmanis, by his own admission, had made himself known as a critic of the old order and sympathizer for the aspirations of the new one.