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Alfred Valdmanis and the Politics of Survival by Gerhard P. Bassler

By Gerhard P. Bassler

Alfred Valdmanis is better identified in Canada for his notorious position in superior Joey Smallwood's scheme to industrialize Newfoundland. A Latvian immigrant, he was once appointed Director basic of monetary improvement in 1950 with the certainty that via his connections to Europe he may perhaps attract German and Baltic industrialists to the remoted, rural island. His impact used to be dropped at an abrupt finish whilst, 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 no longer 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 through the Soviet invasion, a smart collaborator less than the Nazi career, 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 results of the desire to survive.

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In 1949 he boasted to an American audience that by 1939 'education, all kinds of arts, sports - were on a very high level. With university graduates reaching three per thousand of the total population we ranked second to nobody in the world ... [We had] reached the cultural standard of the Wunderkind in Reborn Latvia, 1908-1938 25 best western European countries, an economic standard comparable only with that of Canada and the USA, and a social security comparable only with New Zealand. '5*' Indeed, to the outside observer, Latvia did give the appearance of a prosperous and blossoming country.

Since the government lacked officials able to match Valdmanis's legal and language expertise, Zemgals maintains, Valdmanis was asked in May 34 Alfred Valdmanis and the Politics of Survival 1933 to present a particular Latvian case involving a long-standing trade dispute with Belgium to the court in Ghent. The Ministry of Finance had more or less given up on it as a lost cause. When in September 1933 word came of an unanticipated favourable settlement for Latvia, Valdmanis was asked to take on the defence of Latvia's territorial dispute with Estonia.

In the early nineteenth century, when - with the abolition of serfdom in Russia's Baltic provinces - peasants were assigned surnames, many Latvians adopted German ones to facilitate their upward mobility. Although not claiming any German ancestry, and adopting the Latvian spelling of Alfreds Arturs Aleksandrs in his Latvian passports of 1928 and 1933, Valdmanis found it occasionally expedient to assume a German identity as Alfred Waldmann. Alfred's father Ansis (Hans) was a teacher. Part of his education apparently had been in the obligatory three-year Russian teacher-training program introduced after 1885.

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