By Gerhard P. Bassler
Alfred Valdmanis is healthier recognized in Canada for his notorious function in best Joey Smallwood's scheme to industrialize Newfoundland. A Latvian immigrant, he was once appointed Director common of financial improvement in 1950 with the knowledge that via his connections to Europe he may well appeal to German and Baltic industrialists to the remoted, rural island. His impression 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 prior 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 used to be a finance minister of pre-war Latvia, a central authority legit in the course of the Soviet invasion, a smart collaborator lower than the Nazi profession, then, a chum to the Allies, a spokesman for Latvian POW and displaced folks, and an adviser to the govt. of Canada. during this first severe biography of Alfred Valdamis historian Gerhard Bassler casts the tale of this political manipulator and chameleon in new phrases: the usually tragic effects of the desire to survive.
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Extra info for Alfred Valdmanis and the Politics of Survival
First, Valdmanis benefited from pure chance. Valdemars Zamuels, who was director of the Department of Marine Trade as well as chief legal counsel for the Ministry of Finance, needed sudden hospitalization, and his deputy Viktors Dale, who did not take his duties seriously, was frequently absent. Second, the Ministry of Finance had an uncharacteristically high demand for legal opinions because of the recently introduced monetary restrictions. Third, Valdmanis was determined to impress his superiors with his work ethic and expertise by meeting the unusual challenges facing him.
His relationships were not on a social basis or with those his own age, but on a business basis and with people of 'much higher eye-level,' such as directors of companies and departments. These more senior people continued to consider him, in the words of Zemgals, 'a youngster with some unusual characteristics such as being kind to office boys and other lower-level employees ... On a lew occasions ... he confessed that once in a while he would have liked to be voting. ' 82 Zemgals attributes Valdmanis's rapid advance to senior legal counsel to the successful testing of the newly fledged junior counsel's abilities in the international arena and his subsequent increased prestige at home.
Mateus was a wealthy landowner and a wholesaler for farm machinery. A prominent member of the Farmers Union, he was a popular leader in the province of Kurzeme (Kurland). The Slessers (the name but not necessarily the family was of Baltic German origin) were among the prominent families in Liepaja. Although their prewar fortunes derived from raw lumber exports to Britain had been decimated, they continued to be well off because Irma's father, Janis, was a sea captain for the Red Cross during the First World War.