Research Report for Deschênes Commission Underscores Steep Price of Anti-Communism

– Anna Di Carlo –

Demonstration in 1997 against the presence of Nazi war criminals in Canada. In 1997 the Canadian government acknowledged admitting 2,000 members of the Ukrainian Waffen-SS division.

The September 22 standing ovation for Ukrainian Nazi collaborator Yaroslav Hunka in Parliament was the product of more than a century of persistent, inbred and now ingrained anti-communism among Canada's ruling elite. This outlook was spearheaded by the Anglo-American imperialists from the time of the Great October Socialist Revolution and the rise of the communist and workers movement in Canada itself. In part, it was based on an alleged biblical claim that opposition to private property is a sin and thus it not only defends Canada's constitutional order politically but also in terms of Canadian values.

This outlook is deliberately passed on from one Parliament to the next to the point where it has now become an internally unquestioned official policy of all institutions of the state. This imbues all those who take office with a profound ignorance because they are taught to never question the outlook they swear allegiance to uphold. It also exerts pressure on the entire society at this time when the takeover of political affairs by police powers is posing ever-greater dangers to the rights of the people.

This is why ruling elites make excuses for themselves when they are caught making standing ovations to the likes of Hunka in Parliament. It is difficult to see how any of those who applauded him with two standing ovations are going to talk their way out of this when the entire outlook is anti-communist. Their refusal to modernize Canada's political system is such that they are fully engaged in providing pretexts to justify the expansion of government of police powers and carrying on with their history of suppression and persecution of those fighting for the affirmation of the rights of the people, for an end to war and aggression, for their political empowerment and so on. In recent times, since at least 2016, with all-cartel party support, the government has set the stage to attack every just cause of the people as a subversion by foreign influence in Canada's political affairs.

Despite this, the standing ovation for Hunka brought out renewed demands for the elimination of memorials in Canada glorifying Nazi collaborators and war criminals. As well, various organizations have demanded that the government report on the full extent of the Nazi collaborators given safe haven by the Canadian government after World War II, including revealing the full report of the 1986 Deschênes Commission (officially known as the Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals in Canada). Minister of Immigration Marc Miller tried to preempt this by calling for a "less redacted" report. On September 27,  Miller said officials are looking into declassifying parts of the Deschênes Commission report to make it public in a "less redacted" format. He said "Canada has a really dark history with Nazis in Canada ... There was a point in our history where it was easier to get in as a Nazi than it was as a Jewish person. I think that's a history we have to reconcile." He claimed that he had read the 240-page public report of the Deschênes Commission twice since the standing ovation, adding that because he doesn't know what is contained in the classified documents of the report, he can't yet say if he backs their full release but the government "could possibly examine again [the release of the records]."

The Commission was established in February 1985 "to inquire into the matter of alleged war criminals in Canada." It was comprised of two parts, Part I for publication and Part II "which is destined to remain confidential," Deschênes said in his submission to the government in December 1986.

One of the related documents that has been made public under an Access to Information Act request is a research document produced by Alti Rodal in September 1986. It is a 617-page heavily redacted report entitled Nazi War Criminals in Canada: The Historical and Policy Setting from the 1940's to the Present. It is an instructive read to gauge the anti-communist outlook and intent which informed the government of Canada's inquiry and why the results it reached were to let the vast  majority of Nazis and Nazi collaborators who sought refuge in Canada off scot-free.

Rodal writes that the aim of her study was "to provide an accurate and relatively detailed account from the archival record, of the polices of the government with regard to immigration, displaced persons/refugees, and war criminals, and the setting and evolution of these policies from World War II to permit a better understanding of how the present situation with regard to the war criminals came about." She states, "The historical record is critical to understanding and, to a certain extent, to catharsis." The Deschênes Commission's creation, she says, "offered an opportunity, unlikely to be repeated, to come to grips with some of the important questions of a formative period of Canada's history, a period just past but one which continues to cast a shadow on the present and succeeding generations."

More than 35 years later, many Canadians would add that the shadow Rodal referred to "on the present and succeeding generations" far from becoming lighter is becoming darker and more ominous than ever.

At first perusal, a particularly damning aspect of the Rodal research is how it debunks the attempts of Prime Minister Trudeau, Deputy-Minister Freeland and a host of others to suggest that all of this history is a Russian concoction. This is the case even though various personalities who were calling for the admission of Nazi collaborators suggested at the time that the Soviet Union was unjustly characterizing these collaborators as potential war criminals.

In this vein, Rodal's report underscores the integration of Nazi apologists and collaborators into the Canadian institutions and organizations set up to deal with immigration into Canada from amongst the post-WWII displaced persons (DPs) and the primary role that anti-communism played in the manoeuvres to get Nazi-collaborators into Canada.

One example is the role played by Alfred Valdmanis. Before coming to Canada in 1949, Valdmanis served as special assistant to Reichsbank President Hjalmar Schact and became Latvian Minister of Finance under the pro-Nazi Ulmanis government where he helped deport Jews to concentration camps and form the Nazi-commanded Latvian Waffen-SS to fight the Soviet Union. Valdmanis moved to Canada in 1949 and became an advisor to the Canadian Department of Immigration, where he called for 20,000 Waffen-SS members to be admitted to Canada. In 1950 he became Newfoundland's Director-General for Economic Development where he negotiated a number of economic projects with German monopolies that had backed the Nazis such as Krupp and Hoechst. In 1951 he was accused of being a war criminal but denied the charges and was never arrested or tried for war crimes.

The Rodal report includes a section entitled "The Valdmanis Story" that speaks of how "In a lengthy presentation to the Senate Standing Committee [on immigration] in April 1949, Valdmanis ... pleaded on behalf of immigration to Canada of anti-communist Balts, and in particular on behalf of Baltic Waffen-SS members, who were rehabilitated and released in December 1945 and January 1946, because, he explained, they had nothing to do with the SS."

These are excerpts from the April 27, 1949 Senate hearings where Valdmanis made his appeals for admission of Nazi collaborators. He begins with a brief biography: "I am a Latvian, and am still a citizen of that country [...] My former position in Latvia was a member of the government of that country. I held my government post until Soviet Russia took over the Baltic countries, and I was among the Russian prisoners. Of course the, first thing that country did after it crushed the Baltic countries was to imprison the former government." He continues by stating, "The younger people of the government were held for a special trial. As you will recall, when the Russian-German war broke out, the Germans conquered the Baltic countries. The population of Latvia and Lithuania rose in eight or nine days to meet the situation and then the Germans took over. The Germans liberated Russian political prisoners, of which I happened to be one."

Senator Turgeon asks: "You were liberated by the Germans in their occupation?"

Valdmanis responds: "Yes. It was July 1941 when I was liberated by the Germans when they took over Latvia and all the Baltic countries. We thought that liberation meant real restoration of independence and freedom. As a matter of fact when Field Marshal Von Kuechler, the German commander on the eastern front, made the proclamation we understood he was acting in the name of Hitler. He announced the German army was coming as liberators. Because of this announcement the population of the Baltic countries rose against the Russians. It is a fact that some Baltic refugee groups are wrongfully labelled 'Baltic SS men.' To my mind these people would be the best immigrants to come to a country like Canada."

He goes on to say to the Senators that he needs to explain the "conditions in the Baltic countries." "You will excuse me for using this expression, but 97 to 99 out of 100 [per cent] of the population said that if the devil himself should come back from hell to drive out the Russians he would be welcome. So in June 1941 a man stood up and ordered his army to invade Soviet Russia -- this man was Hitler. His armies were welcome in the Baltic countries "as liberators, particularly after Field Marshall Von Kuechler made the announcement that they were a liberating army."

Valdmanis tells the Senators that the people soon realized "that the Germans had not in fact liberated them and restored to them their freedom. [...] We were between the Russians and the Germans."

Rodal says in her report that "Interest in [the Valdmanis] story in this report relates to the prominent role he played in the resettlement of refugees/DPs both with the IRO in Europe and later in Ottawa, as well as in the impact he would have had on Canadian public perceptions of the Displaced Persons/refugees."

In this regard, Valdmanis told the Senators that "In 1945, after the collapse of Germany, I joined for a short while the staff of [British] Field Marshal Montgomery, and worked on matters affecting prisoners-of-war. I had a particular interest in this work, because among these prisoners-of-war in the hands of the English there happened to be some 20,000 Baltic young people, the so-called Baltic Waffen-SS.

"When this question was solved, the Chief of Staff of Field Marshal Montgomery recognized that these men had not been SS men and had nothing to do with the SS, and in January, 1946, they were released from German prisoner-of-war camps and became bona fide refugees and displaced persons. I then joined the staff of General Eisenhower, later that of General McNarny, and finally, General Clay. Through Field Marshal Alexander [...] Later I went over to the American headquarters and was attached to the Civil Affairs Division of the Headquarters of the European Command, United States Forces, as an adviser on refugee and displaced person matters. In September 1947, at the instigation of the American army, I went over to Geneva to become a senior staff member of the International Refugee Organization."

Speaking of the Canadian regulations regarding admission of the Waffen-SS as it then stood, Valmanis was asked by Senator Wood: "We do not admit them here?"

Valdmanis: "No, you do not."

Senator Wood: "You are trying to sell us on the idea that we should admit them; is that your idea?"

Valdmanis: "Yes. It is my belief that these people are the ones you want from the standpoint of the Canadian immigration policy. They are almost all single; they are young and physically strong. They are strongly anti-communist, additionally so for the reason that they cannot go back because they have fought the Russians and know how the Russians would deal with them. [...] Honourable senators, if I may speak for these refugees and displaced persons I wish to say that there are a great number of them who would make extremely fine citizens in your country."

Rodal writes that Valdmanis was "a cause célèbre" and his profile "kept Eastern European immigrants in the public eye." Her report speaks of the opposition to Valdmanis at the time: "The pro-Communist Polish ethnic press responded to Valdmanis' presentation to the Senate Committee with an article claiming that as a former advisor to the wartime President of the Bank of Germany, Valdmanis 'was infected with Nazism.'"

She writes that "The Senate Committee heard two sets of opposing voices with regard to Ukrainian DPs. The pro-Soviet Ukrainian and Polish spokesmen reiterated the Soviet line that the DPs in Germany were either war criminals or collaborators, or persons free to return to their homeland. They criticized Canada's policy of ethnic preference, which substituted immigration of people of a particular religious or political background for a policy of broad immigration based on Canada's needs and perspectives. 'We submit that this type of "selective immigration" is contrary to Canada's democratic traditions and insofar as it serves as a mask to cover the bringing over to Canada of the pro-Nazi remnants in Europe it is subversive and fraught with dangers to Canadian democracy and security."

These are some of the conclusions drawn by Rodal in the summary of her research:

"Cold War considerations had conditioned the approach of the Western Allies in the years immediately following the war with regard to Nazi collaborators from Eastern European countries. As a result, many were able to evade screening and/or apprehension, either because of the absence of documentation and information in their regard, or because, as anti-Communists, they elicited sympathy in the West."

"As in the United States and Britain, a determining consideration shaping policy and attitudes particularly in the 1950s, with regard to Nazi collaborators from countries which after the war were ruled by Communist regimes was the passion with which these persons professed anti-Communist sentiment.

"The former Nazi collaborators who have established in Canada the veterans' organizations or branches ... appear to have retained a toned-down version of the fascist and racist elements which characterized their ideologies and actions during the war years. Occasionally, these elements are manifest in the foreign-language publications put out by these organizations. In the Canadian atmosphere, however, their presentation is generally one of single-minded anti-Communism."

The work done has exposed the extent to which the post-WWII dregs of Nazism were brought into Canada and how they were used as a bulwark in the integration of Canada into the NATO war apparatus and in this regard, the connections that are being brought out that this fight against anti-communism is at the heart of many dangers facing Canadians. The Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada invites anyone interested to join in the work for this project.

This article was published in
Volume 53 Number 25 - November 2023

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