By Gerhard P. Bassler
Alfred Valdmanis is healthier identified in Canada for his notorious function in most popular Joey Smallwood's scheme to industrialize Newfoundland. A Latvian immigrant, he used to be appointed Director normal of financial improvement in 1950 with the knowledge that via his connections to Europe he may well attract German and Baltic industrialists to the remoted, rural island. His effect was once dropped at an abrupt finish while, in 1954, he used to be charged with defrauding the govt. The media, latching directly to his murky previous and his attainable association with conflict criminals, made him the scapegoat of Newfoundland's difficulties, portray him as half comic, half sinister villain.
This used to be now not the 1st time his identify was once attached with arguable concerns. Valdmanis's wily political manoeuvring is extra the stuff of fiction than background. 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 reliable throughout the Soviet invasion, a smart collaborator below the Nazi career, then, a chum to the Allies, a spokesman for Latvian POW and displaced people, 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 customarily tragic results of the need to survive.
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Extra resources for Alfred Valdmanis and the Politics of Survival
But it is equally indisputable that the Ulmanis regime absorbed Latvian right-wing radical tendencies (including those of the fascist Perkonkrusts whose organization he had outlawed) and emulated features of European fascist states. Of course, Ulmanis could not admit to emulating Nazi Germany because it would contradict his declared strategy of eliminating the historically rooted German influences in Latvian life. Nevertheless, historian Jiirgen von Hehn was struck by the similarities to German and Italian models, in particular the structural changes of the Ulmanis regime and the means of their introduction.
There he was promoted to the position of deputy assistant to the metals grading inspector, and in March 1930 to the position of assistant clerk. ™ Both the departments of Economics and of Trade and Industry were within the Ministry of Finance. According to his government record of employment, Valdmanis's professional legal career began inauspiciously in August 1932 when the director of the Department of Economics took him on as a temporary replacement for an assistant legal counsel, initially for a one-month trial period.
In his capacity as legal counsel, he became aware of the involvement of some of the banks in unsavoury deals with politicians and parlia- Wunderkind in Reborn Latvia, 1908-1938 33 mentarians. 'The young jurist would not accept the corrupt customs of the day. With barely concealed contempt he opposed many important men in parliament and court,' Zemgals relates. 80 Whether as a civil servant Valdmanis was in fact the alleged youthful idealist opposed to corrupt politicians and a champion for clean government cannot be verified.
Alfred Valdmanis and the Politics of Survival by Gerhard P. Bassler