Henry Morgenthau Jr.

Henry Morgenthau Jr.


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Henry Morgenthau Jr. flourished during the New Deal and World War II, and was one of the indispensable figures in reviving the American economy following The Great Depression. The sole Jewish member of Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration, Morgenthau served the president faithfully.Morgenthau was born on May 11th, 1891, in New York City, New York, the son of Henry and Josephine (Sykes) Morgenthau. Henry was proud to attend the private school, Exeter Academy, and later studied architecture and agriculture at Cornell University.With his schooling in agriculture, he went on to buy an apple orchard and dairy in East Fishkill, New York, in the spring of 1913. Marcelle Puthon Hirsh of New York.Active in his local community, Morgenthau was appointed to be the chairman of the New York Agricultural Advisory Commission in 1928. Roosevelt, assisted him in getting that position, which Morgenthau held until 1932.Having gained even more knowledge about the agricultural economy, Morgenthau became the Commissioner of Conservation in 1930. When Roosevelt was elected president, he wanted Morgenthau to be at his side as the chairman of the Federal Farm Board, and appointed him governor of the Farm Credit Association in 1933.In 1934, Morgenthau was appointed as Secretary of Treasury, where he administered the federal tax programs, raising amazing revenues that had never been seen before. dollar against devaluation from other competitive nations.Morgenthau remained in his position until just after the death of President Roosevelt, waiting for incoming President Harry S. Truman's return from the “Big Three” conference in Berlin. He left the cabinet on July 22nd, 1945.His career in politics at an end, Morgenthau still wanted to influence people from around the world, so he turned to philanthropy. Morgenthau was a prominent Zionist and served as chairman of the American Financial and Development Corporation for Israel. In 1950 Morgenthau became the chairman of Hebrew University in Jerusalem.Henry Morgenthau Jr. died on February 6th, 1967, in Poughkeepsie, New York.


Henry Morgenthau, Jr.

Henry Morgenthau, Jr. was the second and final Treasury Secretary to serve under Franklin D. Roosevelt. The son of a prominent Jewish real estate mogul and diplomat, Morgenthau was born in 1891 in New York City. He studied at Cornell University, befriended Roosevelt in 1913 and afterwards operated a Christmas tree farm near Hyde Park. During the Great War he worked for the Farm Security Administration and after it ran American Agriculturalist magazine. He chaired the New York State Agricultural Advisory Committee during Roosevelt’s term as governor of that state.

After his election to the presidency, Roosevelt naturally turned to Morgenthau to head the Federal Farm Board and tapped him to take over at Treasury following Secretary William Woodin’s resignation. As a fiscal conservative, Morgenthau favored balanced budgets over the fiscal stimulus program advocated by British economist John Maynard Keynes and his followers. Nevertheless, continued economic weakness and anemic government receipts combined with hefty New Deal expenditures to create chronic deficits that averaged almost 4% between 1933 and 1940.

By 1941, the economy was humming, but government receipts could not keep up with wartime expenditures. Revenues increased from $8.7 to over $45 billion between 1941 and 1945, but expenditures soared from almost $13.7 to $92.7 billion over that same period, leading to deficits greater than 20% of GDP in 1943, 1944 and 1945 that Morgenthau financed through the sale of bonds to individuals and institutional investors like banks and insurers.

In 1944, Morgenthau chaired the Bretton Woods Conference that created an international monetary system that established the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and that enshrined the US dollar as the free world’s postwar international currency.

Morgenthau resigned from the Truman administration just months after Roosevelt died, and soon after published a book calling for harsh postwar treatment of Nazis and the deindustrialization of Germany. He also became active in Jewish philanthropies and was a financial advisor to the new state of Israel. Morgenthau died in 1967 in Poughkeepsie, New York.


American Experience

Henry Morgenthau, Jr., painting by David Silvett, courtesy of US Treasury

Soon after the Second World War ended, Henry Morgenthau, Jr. would recall what he called "those terrible eighteen months" in Washington, when "the Nazis were planning to exterminate all the Jews of Europe." He went on to write, "officials dodged their grim responsibility, procrastinated when concrete rescue schemes were placed before them, and even suppressed information about atrocities." The terrible 18 months Morgenthau was referring to was the period between the summer of 1942, when the State Department first heard of Hitler's plan to murder Europe's Jews, and January of 1944, when President Roosevelt set up the War Refugee Board, an institution that ultimately saved as many as 200,000 Jewish lives. Although, as secretary of the treasury, Morgenthau had few official opportunities to deal with the rescue efforts, a series of events starting in mid-1943 meant that Morgenthau and his staff at the Treasury played a key role in Roosevelt's decision to set up an agency independent of the State Department that would be charged with rescuing Europe's Jews.

Morgenthau was himself the grandson of a German Jewish immigrant. His grandfather, Lazarus, arrived in New York in 1866 on the verge of bankruptcy. As the promoter of his own consistently unsuccessful inventions, which included among other things a label machine and a tongue scraper, Lazarus Morgenthau was ultimately a failure in America. That his grandson Henry Morgenthau, Jr. rose to a position of such prominence in American politics had much to do with the determination of Henry's father, who'd graduated from Columbia Law School, gone on to make a fortune in real estate, and though he never was given the place in President Woodrow Wilson's cabinet he had fought so hard for, had nonetheless been appointed Ambassador to Turkey.

His son's path to high office was easier. Henry Morgenthau Jr. left Cornell University without graduating and, deciding to become a farmer, bought 1,000 acres of land in Dutchess County, New York. As it turned out, the Morgenthaus were now neighbors of the Roosevelts, and the two families became close friends. When Roosevelt became governor of New York in 1928, he appointed Morgenthau the chairman of his agricultural advisory commission. When Roosevelt was elected President in 1932, Morgenthau became his Treasury Secretary.

Morgenthau was one of the few Jews surrounding the President, and was perhaps the most concerned by the plight of Germany's Jews. At the end of 1938, realizing that Congress was becoming increasingly unyielding on the number of immigrants who could enter the country, he went to the President with a different suggestion. He proposed that the United States acquire British and French Guiana and in return cancel whatever Britain and France still owed the United States on loans from World War I. According to Morgenthau's diary, Roosevelt was not impressed. "It's no good," the President reportedly said. "It would take the Jews five to 50 years to overcome the fever."

Nonetheless Morgenthau continued to bring news of rescue plans to the President's attention. On February 13, 1943, a "New York Times" article offered the Jews of Rumania some hope. It reported that the Rumanian government was prepared to ship the 70,000 Rumanian Jews in Transnistria to a safe haven chosen by the allies. In return, the Rumanians wanted approximately $130 per refugee to cover expenses. Morgenthau immediately pointed the story out to the President, who suggested that Morgenthau ask the State Department to look into the matter. Nothing ever came of the plan.

Later in the year, Morgenthau became much more involved in the rescue issue. The sequence of events began in April of 1943, when Gerhart Riegner, the representative of the World Jewish Congress in Geneva, sent a message to the U.S. with yet another rescue proposal. According to Riegner, if American Jewish organizations made funds available, supplies could be sent to the Jews of Transnistria. Additionally, Jewish children in the region could be moved to Palestine. And in France funds were needed to support hidden Jewish children and to finance escapes of Jews to Spain.

It was the Treasury Department's responsibility to issue the licenses required to send funds overseas. The State Department, however, didn't inform Morgenthau's staffers about Riegner's plan until late June. Once aware of what was involved, the Treasury Department rapidly approved the license. But because of further State Department delays and the procrastination of the U.S. legation in Bern, the license was not transmitted to Riegner until late December. This was eight months after Riegner had first proposed his plan. In struggling against State Department obstructionism, the Treasury Department discovered that the State Department had at one point actually instructed the U.S. legation in Bern to block more information about the Holocaust from reaching the U.S. Treasury Department staffers were so incensed by this callous indifference, they presented Morgenthau with a searing, 18-page critique of the Administration's failure to help the Jews of Europe. They entitled it "Report to the Secretary on the Acquiescence of This Government in the Murder of the Jews." Morgenthau was also aware of political pressure mounting on Capitol Hill for an independent rescue agency. Cognizant of the possible political scandal if Roosevelt didn't seize the initiative, he urged FDR to set up an organization to deal with the refugee crisis. The President responded immediately, issuing an executive order on January 22, 1944 that established the War Refugee Board (WRB).

Before the end of the war, Morgenthau was to clash with the State Department again. This time the issue was the future of Germany. The Treasury Secretary put forward a proposal that came to be known as the Morgenthau Plan. In order to prevent Germany from rearming, he advocated dismantling heavy industry and closing the country's mines. He also had a drastic suggestion regarding Germany's young people. "Well, if you let the young children of today be brought up by SS Troopers who are indoctrinated with Hitlerism, aren't you simply going to raise another generation of Germans who will want to wage war?" he noted in his diary. "Don't you think the thing to do is to take a leaf from Hitler's book and completely remove these children from their parents and make them wards of the state, and have ex-US Army officers, English Army officers and Russian Army officers run these schools and have these children learn the true spirit of democracy?" State Department Officials strongly opposed the plan. Harry S. Truman rejected it when he became president.

Morgenthau didn't remain long in public office after Roosevelt's death. After leaving the Treasury Department in July of 1945, he spent much of the rest of his life working with Jewish philanthropies.


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When Franklin Roosevelt took the oath of office in March of 1933, the United States was in the midst of the worst depression in its history. A strict quota system limited entry of immigrants to the United States according to their country of origin. American law at the time did not include any special provisions for admitting refugees fleeing persecution, so after the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939, German Jews were denied entry unless they met the strict quota.

Antisemitism in the U.S. reached a peak between 1938 and 1945. Sixty percent of Americans polled in the 1930s thought Jews had "objectionable qualities," nearly half believed Jews had "too much power" in the United States, and as many as 10 percent said they would sympathize with an antisemitic campaign. The country favored a position of neutrality and isolationism.

It was this atmosphere that so deeply affected the action (or inaction) of the American government at the time. While it seems clear to many that the United States should have done more to save Europe's Jewish population, it is unknown how the majority of Americans would have responded to such an effort.

The US was not alone in its reluctance to let Jews emigrate. President Franklin D. Roosevelt organized the international Evian Conference on the shore of Lake Geneva in France to discuss the refugee crisis, and although 32 nations attended, little was accomplished. Only Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic were willing to accept Jewish refugees, and then only because they were paid reparations to do so.


Listen to Arthur Meier describe his family&rsquos struggle to emigrate to the United States in 1939 in the clip above.


Germany is Our Problem, by Henry Morgenthau, Jr.

Shortly after Hitler&rsquos rise to power prominent Nazi politicians drew up a plan for the &ldquosolution of the Jewish problem.&rdquo Under its terms the Jews of Europe, and perhaps those of other continents as well, were to be deported to Kenya in Africa. Nazi propagandists stressed that their plan was extremely humane: several million Jews, by dint of hard manual labor, would live and prosper as farmers tilling the virgin African soil. But the entire plan was sheer propaganda. The real intentions of the Nazis were to exterminate the Jews, in accordance with their thesis that their elimination would resolve Europe&rsquos social crisis.

Mr. Morgenthau blames the Germans for most of the wars of the last one or two hundred years and fixes upon them sole responsibility for the deeds of their Nazi masters, as well as for militarism and for imperialist power politics in general. Germany Is Our Problem proposes, therefore, to exclude the German people from the necessities and advantages of modem technology and science. Germany is to be made harmless and the world forever peaceful by the transformation of the most highly developed industrial economy of Europe into one of farmers and artisans. No German would be permitted to work in a chemical laboratory or participate in physics or other scientific research. German scholars might, however, be permitted to study old folk-songs or how to milk a cow.

The former Secretary of the Treasury is confident he knows how to establish peace and prosperity on a world-wide scale. The basis will be provided by the destruction of Germany&rsquos heavy industries. The menace of German imperialism will then disappear. German industries will never again supply German armies with weapons for totalitarian war. American industrialists will profit by the disappearance from world markets of their strongest competitor. British industrialists will be able to take over former German export markets. Other European countries will develop new industries. Russia, feeling safe, will become cooperative. In short, the end of German industrialism will coincide with the beginning of a new era of prosperity and universal peace.

The thesis of this book, that a highly industrialized country be reduced to the status of a backward, mainly agricultural country, has no precedent in modem .history. The evolution of an agrarian into an industrial economy and a coordinate rise in the general level of productivity of labor coincided with a growing population. Thus the population of Germany doubled between the middle of the nineteenth century and 1938. Mr. Morgenthau denies that his solution would destroy the basis for the mere physical survival of about half the population of Central Europe and generally impoverish the entire Continent. He even makes an effort to prove that his plan is practical and humane but the facts and figures he quotes are often false or misleading. A few examples chosen at random are typical.

Germany&rsquos territorial losses are actually more than twice as large as the book premises. Mr. Morgenthau takes account of the loss of Eastern Prussia and Sile?ia but does not refer to other, even greater, losses of German territory, millions of whose inhabitants have been deported into rump Germany. (This oversight is particularly strange in view of the fact that the author refers to the Potsdam Conference, at which these territorial changes were discussed.) Thus his figures on the future German deficit of foodstuffs that will result from loss of agricultural territories are quite misleading and underestimate the deficits in various items of food by from I 5 to 35 per cent on the average. Mr. Morgenthau habitually gives the postwar population of Germany as 60 million persons living within an agricultural area of about 107 million acres. Actually, the population of rump Germany will amount to 5 to 10 million persons more, and the arable land to 5 million acres less.

Mr. Morgenthau writes that 34,000 large estates took up more than one third of the farmland in pre-war Germany. As a matter of fact, the 34,000 largest estates, those of 100 or more hectares (247 acres or over), occupied only 11.7 per cent of arable land.

Mr. Morgenthau claims that German agriculture was backward. The exact reverse is true. In all Europe only Sweden, Holland and Belgium had a higher output of grain per acre, and this was largely owing to better soil conditions or greater specialization. All other European countries produced less grain per acre than did Germany.

Mr. Morgenthau claims that there is adequate unused arable land in Germany. It is true that forests and pasture land are still to be found in Germany, although in far smaller proportions than in France, Britain or most other European countries. Of course, one could institute a program of extensive deforestation in Germany in order to provide more farmland. But one need not be an agricultural expert to predict the dire effects this would have on soil and climatic conditions throughout Central Europe.

The author&rsquos suggestion, that 5 million industrial workers be settled on 2.5 million new farms in order to increase Germany&rsquos total agricultural yield, assumes, for one thing, that a skilled metal-worker or bookkeeper can become an efficient independent farmer overnight. For another thing, he has no difficulty finding land for these two and a half million additional farms. He has somehow discovered plenty of arable wasteland that the highly qualified German agrarian experts simply overlooked. Furthermore, he would break up all large estates. But if all of the twenty thousand large estates of 247 acres and over in rump Germany were to be divided into 2.5 million little farms, each farm would total 2.i acres. The minimum-size farm that before the war could support a hard-working, efficient and experienced farmer was 9.9 to 11.3 acres in western Germany and 47.4 to 68.1 acres in eastern Germany. (This was the estimate of Germany&rsquos outstanding agricultural expert, Professor Max Sering, in his standard work published in 1932.)

Besides, the income of the small German peasants was largely derived from the sale of dairy products, poultry and eggs to the urban industrial population. The elimination of this market would make it impossible for small farmers to specialize in the production for which they are best suited. They would have to produce more grain and potatoes, and could make a living thereby only if they had more, not less, land to cultivate. The greater the industrial hinterland, the less land the small peasant needs to make a living and the smaller the industrial population, the more land he needs.

Mr. Morgenthau prefers Germans as peasants because as a class the German peasant &ldquotook the Nazi virus later and in a somewhat milder form&rdquo than the rest of the population. Actually, it was the other way about: the overwhelming majority of the industrial working class provided the most stubborn and consistent opposition to the Nazis, while most of the peasants did in fact vote for Hitler. This is demonstrated by the 1932-33 election results.

One might continue for pages to list Mr. Morgenthau&rsquos errors and miscalculations. But in the last analysis &ldquosupporting data&rdquo have little to do with his thesis. Its conception and application are determined by political factors. Indeed Mr. Morgenthau has altered his original plan so fast that he has had, apparently, no time to revise his statistical data. He has given up his original idea of flooding the Ruhr mines&mdasha step that would have been one of the greatest of disasters for Europe. Instead, he now suggests that the entire German population of the Ruhr area be dumped into the interior of rump Germany. He makes this proposal without pausing to consider the economic and social effects of the deportation of another several million Germans from their traditional homelands.

Physically, it is possible to destroy the German industrial economy, to prevent or curb industrial reconstruction for peacetime purposes and thus to transform the heart of Europe into an industrially barren area. Similarly, it would have been possible to send several million Jews to Kenya&mdashto die there, for despite the testimony of Nazi &ldquoexperts,&rdquo most of the deportees would have starved or otherwise perished. Mr. Morgenthau&rsquos de-industrialization plan, if carried out, would wipe out the economic basis for the existence of some 25 to 30 million Germans.

Henry Morgenthau may seriously fail to recognize the similarity his &ldquosolution&rdquo has to Nazi technique. Such a &ldquosolution&rdquo would boomerang in the form of intensified racial and national hatreds and in a social crisis that would spread from Germany to the entire Continent. If Central Europe and Italy were before the war the breeding ground of fascism, all Europe will become its breeding ground after the Morgenthau proposals are put into effect. That anti-Semitism would then flourish fourfold goes without saying.

Let us Jews above all be given pause by this delenda est. Perhaps better than any others, we know that an eye for an eye has never solved anything. And from history we have also learned that poverty and frustration and denial of human dignity, not inborn evil, make up the soil that nurtures the hatred of man against man.


Henry Morgenthau Jr

Henry Morgenthau, Jr. was born May 11, 1891 in New York City, the grandson of German Jewish immigrants and the child of Henry Morgenthau, a realtor and diplomat, and Josephine Sykes Morgenthau. Educated in private schools, young Morgenthau studied architecture and agriculture for two years at Cornell University. In 1913, he bought an apple and dairy farm in East Fishkill, New York, a town in Dutchess County. It was there that Morgenthau met and befriended Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, who lived in nearby Hyde Park. As a World War I colleague of Herbert Hoover, Morgenthau helped the U.S. Farm Administration develop a plan to send tractors to war-ravaged France. In 1922, Morgenthau bought the American Agriculturist, which he continued to publish until 1933. He served as chair of the New York State Agricultural Advisory Committee from 1928-1930, after which he served on the state Conservation Commission until 1932.

In 1933, President Roosevelt appointed Morgenthau governor of the Federal Farm Board, and in November of the same year, when acting treasury secretary William Woodin's ill health forced his resignation, Roosevelt named Morgenthau undersecretary of the treasury and promoted him to secretary of the treasury the following year. Morgenthau held that post until 1945. During his tenure in this office, he became famous for resisting Keynesian economics and raising over $200 billion through the sale of bonds.

Morgenthau's legacy is more than wartime fiscal policy. Although treasury was not initially involved in establishing military or refugee policy, Morgenthau and his department eventually played a key role in American refugee policy when they helped convince FDR to establish an independent refugee agency outside the state department. The War Refugee Board, not the recalcitrant State Department, would assume responsibility for rescuing European Jews and would take the lead in saving as many as 200,000 European Jews. In 1944, he proposed a plan for postwar Germany that called for Germany to be stripped of its industry and forced to return to an agrarian economy although the plan was considered, it was ultimately rejected. Later that year, Morgenthau was a major player at the Bretton Woods Conference, the birthplace of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (precursor to the World Bank). The week after FDR's death, Morgenthau urged ER to continue her political career and to speak out forcefully on the issues, arguing that her voice was needed more than ever in the postwar world.

After leaving the cabinet on July 22, 1945, Morgenthau became a philanthropist and a leading financial advisor to the new nation of Israel. He died in Poughkeepsie, New York, on February 6, 1967.

Source: The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project for the National Park Service.


American Experience

Henry Morgenthau, Jr., painting by David Silvett, courtesy of US Treasury

Soon after the Second World War ended, Henry Morgenthau, Jr. would recall what he called "those terrible eighteen months" in Washington, when "the Nazis were planning to exterminate all the Jews of Europe." He went on to write, "officials dodged their grim responsibility, procrastinated when concrete rescue schemes were placed before them, and even suppressed information about atrocities." The terrible 18 months Morgenthau was referring to was the period between the summer of 1942, when the State Department first heard of Hitler's plan to murder Europe's Jews, and January of 1944, when President Roosevelt set up the War Refugee Board, an institution that ultimately saved as many as 200,000 Jewish lives. Although, as secretary of the treasury, Morgenthau had few official opportunities to deal with the rescue efforts, a series of events starting in mid-1943 meant that Morgenthau and his staff at the Treasury played a key role in Roosevelt's decision to set up an agency independent of the State Department that would be charged with rescuing Europe's Jews.

Morgenthau was himself the grandson of a German Jewish immigrant. His grandfather, Lazarus, arrived in New York in 1866 on the verge of bankruptcy. As the promoter of his own consistently unsuccessful inventions, which included among other things a label machine and a tongue scraper, Lazarus Morgenthau was ultimately a failure in America. That his grandson Henry Morgenthau, Jr. rose to a position of such prominence in American politics had much to do with the determination of Henry's father, who'd graduated from Columbia Law School, gone on to make a fortune in real estate, and though he never was given the place in President Woodrow Wilson's cabinet he had fought so hard for, had nonetheless been appointed Ambassador to Turkey.

His son's path to high office was easier. Henry Morgenthau Jr. left Cornell University without graduating and, deciding to become a farmer, bought 1,000 acres of land in Dutchess County, New York. As it turned out, the Morgenthaus were now neighbors of the Roosevelts, and the two families became close friends. When Roosevelt became governor of New York in 1928, he appointed Morgenthau the chairman of his agricultural advisory commission. When Roosevelt was elected President in 1932, Morgenthau became his Treasury Secretary.

Morgenthau was one of the few Jews surrounding the President, and was perhaps the most concerned by the plight of Germany's Jews. At the end of 1938, realizing that Congress was becoming increasingly unyielding on the number of immigrants who could enter the country, he went to the President with a different suggestion. He proposed that the United States acquire British and French Guiana and in return cancel whatever Britain and France still owed the United States on loans from World War I. According to Morgenthau's diary, Roosevelt was not impressed. "It's no good," the President reportedly said. "It would take the Jews five to 50 years to overcome the fever."

Nonetheless Morgenthau continued to bring news of rescue plans to the President's attention. On February 13, 1943, a "New York Times" article offered the Jews of Rumania some hope. It reported that the Rumanian government was prepared to ship the 70,000 Rumanian Jews in Transnistria to a safe haven chosen by the allies. In return, the Rumanians wanted approximately $130 per refugee to cover expenses. Morgenthau immediately pointed the story out to the President, who suggested that Morgenthau ask the State Department to look into the matter. Nothing ever came of the plan.

Later in the year, Morgenthau became much more involved in the rescue issue. The sequence of events began in April of 1943, when Gerhart Riegner, the representative of the World Jewish Congress in Geneva, sent a message to the U.S. with yet another rescue proposal. According to Riegner, if American Jewish organizations made funds available, supplies could be sent to the Jews of Transnistria. Additionally, Jewish children in the region could be moved to Palestine. And in France funds were needed to support hidden Jewish children and to finance escapes of Jews to Spain.

It was the Treasury Department's responsibility to issue the licenses required to send funds overseas. The State Department, however, didn't inform Morgenthau's staffers about Riegner's plan until late June. Once aware of what was involved, the Treasury Department rapidly approved the license. But because of further State Department delays and the procrastination of the U.S. legation in Bern, the license was not transmitted to Riegner until late December. This was eight months after Riegner had first proposed his plan. In struggling against State Department obstructionism, the Treasury Department discovered that the State Department had at one point actually instructed the U.S. legation in Bern to block more information about the Holocaust from reaching the U.S. Treasury Department staffers were so incensed by this callous indifference, they presented Morgenthau with a searing, 18-page critique of the Administration's failure to help the Jews of Europe. They entitled it "Report to the Secretary on the Acquiescence of This Government in the Murder of the Jews." Morgenthau was also aware of political pressure mounting on Capitol Hill for an independent rescue agency. Cognizant of the possible political scandal if Roosevelt didn't seize the initiative, he urged FDR to set up an organization to deal with the refugee crisis. The President responded immediately, issuing an executive order on January 22, 1944 that established the War Refugee Board (WRB).

Before the end of the war, Morgenthau was to clash with the State Department again. This time the issue was the future of Germany. The Treasury Secretary put forward a proposal that came to be known as the Morgenthau Plan. In order to prevent Germany from rearming, he advocated dismantling heavy industry and closing the country's mines. He also had a drastic suggestion regarding Germany's young people. "Well, if you let the young children of today be brought up by SS Troopers who are indoctrinated with Hitlerism, aren't you simply going to raise another generation of Germans who will want to wage war?" he noted in his diary. "Don't you think the thing to do is to take a leaf from Hitler's book and completely remove these children from their parents and make them wards of the state, and have ex-US Army officers, English Army officers and Russian Army officers run these schools and have these children learn the true spirit of democracy?" State Department Officials strongly opposed the plan. Harry S. Truman rejected it when he became president.

Morgenthau didn't remain long in public office after Roosevelt's death. After leaving the Treasury Department in July of 1945, he spent much of the rest of his life working with Jewish philanthropies.


Collection Historical Note

Henry Morgenthau, Jr. (1891-1967), President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s longest-serving cabinet member, Hudson Valley neighbor, friend and advisor played key roles in support of FDR’s New Deal and World War II policies. During his tenure as Secretary of the Treasury (1933-1945) Morgenthau ensured financing for the New Deal’s economic stimulus policies. He helped design and implement Lend-Lease (1941), the War Bond Program (1942), the War Refugee Board (1944-1945), and the Bretton Woods Conference (1944) programs that assisted in the global economic recovery and supported the American and Allied efforts during World War II.

Born in New York City on May 11, 1891, Henry was the only son of Henry Morgenthau, Sr. and Josephine Sykes, both from prominent New York German-Jewish immigrant families. Henry Morgenthau Sr., a lawyer and real estate investor, graduated from Columbia University and later served as Ambassador to Turkey under President Woodrow Wilson during World War I.

Morgenthau Jr. attended Cornell University from 1909-1910 and 1912-1913 but left before graduation purchasing a farm in East Fishkill, New York. The location of his farm and family connections to the Democratic Party brought Morgenthau in to the Roosevelt family circle. His 1916 marriage to Elinor Fatman of the New York banking Lehman family cemented Morgenthau’s place in New York financial and Democratic communities. Morgenthau campaigned actively for FDR in the 1920s supporting FDR’s candidacy for governor. After FDR’s election, as governor of New York, he appointed Morgenthau to the New York State Agricultural Advisory Commission (1928) and then to the New York State Conservation Commission (1930). Both Morgenthaus remained close friends and confidants of the Roosevelts during the Presidency. Elinor Morgenthau and Eleanor Roosevelt often went for horseback rides in Rock Creek Park. Henry had weekly lunches the President at the White House or in Hyde Park while Elinor joined Eleanor Roosevelt as her assistant in the wartime Office of Civilian Defense.

After his inauguration on March 4, 1933 FDR appointed Morgenthau to his first federal administrative position, Chairman of the Federal Farm Board. Morgenthau, a successful farmer, helped write the Executive Order that merged the functions of existing farm and agricultural agencies and created the Farm Credit Administration (FCA). Morgenthau served as the first FCA Governor until November 1933 when FDR nominated him to succeed William H. Woodin as Secretary of the Treasury. Morgenthau would serve as Secretary of the Treasury for the duration of FDR’s presidency and through the first few months of Harry S. Truman’s administration.

During the war, Morgenthau precipitated implementation of two critical programs: Lend-Lease and establishment of the War Refugee Board. In January 1944, Morgenthau approached FDR with his concerns about the State Department’s handling of the European refugees, particularly Jewish refugees. As a result of his work, FDR issued Executive Order 9417 establishing the War Refugee Board on January 22, 1944. The War Refugee Board is credited with saving over 200,000 lives.

The establishment of the War Refugee Board was the culmination of years of effort to act on behalf of Europe’s Jews. Morgenthau’s marriage was performed by Rabbi Stephen Wise, who helped Gerhard Riegner get his message about Hitler’s plan to exterminate Europe’s Jews to the U.S. Government. Morgenthau himself received a telegram about the SS Saint Louis, prevented from landing in Cuba in 1939 and had been approached by Rabbi Wise and others to help French Jews. Morgenthau stated, at the time, that his role as Secretary of the Treasury prevented him from taking action on issues of foreign affairs. In 1940, Morgenthau supported a plan to purchase British Guiana for Jewish refugees, which the administration rejected. Two years later, in 1942, he acted in support of a rumored offer to pay for safe passage of Romanian Jews to from Nazi-occupied territories, but the program did not succeed. In late 1943, after being presented with evidence that the State Department actively refused to assist Jewish refugees, Morgenthau and his Assistants at the Secretary of the Treasury, John Pehle, Randolph Paul, and Josiah DuBois, Jr., and Foreign Economic Administration head Oscar Cox, he suggested that FDR act before Congress to take action to rescue Europe’s Jews. Morgenthau helped draft the press release and staffed the War Refugee Board with members of the Treasury Department. The War Refugee Board took on the task of the “immediate rescue and relief of the Jews of Europe and other victims of enemy persecution” coordinating with established rescue organizations, including the World Jewish Congress and Joint Distribution Committee, and utilizing the expertise of the American and European diplomatic corps, the Board received funding through donations from aid and refugee organizations.

Late in 1944, Morgenthau helped set up the United States first refugee center for victims of the Nazis in Oswego, New York. His proposed post-war plan for Germany, known as the “Morgethau Plan,” would have stripped Germany of its industrial capability to ensure demilitarization. While most of his plan was not adopted, some elements were incorporated in to the Joint Chiefs of Staff Directive 1067 in occupied Germany.

After leaving office in 1945, Morgenthau remained deeply involved in refugee affairs and spoke on behalf of “displaced persons” throughout Europe. He supported numerous Jewish philanthropies and served as financial advisor to the state of Israel from 1951 to 1954. He became General Chairman of the United Jewish Appeal from 1947 to 1950 and remained involved until his death in 1967.

Henry Morgenthau, Jr. and Elinor Morgenthau had three children, Joan, Robert, and Henry Morgenthau III. Elinor died in 1949 and Henry Morgenthau Jr. married Mrs. Marcelle Puthon Hirsch (1899-1972) in 1951. Fishkill Farms, established by Henry Morgenthau, Jr. in 1914, is still in operation and is run by the third generation of Morgenthaus.


The collection consists of artifacts, extensive personal and official correspondence, documents, photographs, research notes, audiotapes, books, and a DVD copy of home movies related to the experiences of the Morgenthau family. The collection includes material related to the Ottoman Empire and Armenian genocide, the family's long relationship with the Roosevelts, the Treasury Department, and the pre-war, wartime, and post-war lives of members of the family as well as family history research, collected documents, and transcripts of oral histories created and compiled by Henry Morgenthau III.

Bronze Star medal with box and certificate awarded to a Jewish American soldier

Bronze Star medal and ribbon with presentation box and certificate awarded to Henry Morgenthau III, an officer in the United States Army, Second Cavalry, for meritorious service during combat from January 1, 1945 to February 28, 1945, in Luxemburg.

Two dog tags and a chain worn by a Jewish American soldier

Two identical dog tags on a chain issued to Henry Morgenthau III, an officer in the United States Army, Second Cavalry, ca. 1941-1945. He served in combat in the European theater and was awarded a Bronze Star for meritorious service.

US Army 2nd Cavalry Regiment Toujours Pret pin worn by a Jewish American soldier

Clutchback pin with the motto Toujours Pret (Always Ready) worn by Henry Morgenthau III, an officer in the United States Army, Second Cavalry, ca. 1941-1945. He served in combat in the European theater and was awarded a Bronze Star for meritorious service.

US Army 2nd Cavalry regimental pin worn by a Jewish American soldier

Second Cavalry regimental crossed sabers pin worn by Henry Morgenthau III, who was an officer in the United States Army, Second Cavalry, ca. 1941-1945. He served in combat in the European theater and was awarded a Bronze Star for meritorious service.

US Army 2nd Cavalry captain's insignia worn by a Jewish American soldier

US Army captain's insignia pin worn by Henry Morgenthau III, who was an officer in the United States Army, Second Cavalry, ca. 1941-1945. He served in combat in the European theater and was awarded a Bronze Star for meritorious service.

Waffen-SS Mountain Troop patch acquired by a US soldier

Waffen-SS Mountain Troop edelweiss badge acquired by Henry Morgenthau III, an officer in the United States Army, Second Cavalry, ca. 1941-1945. He served in combat in the European theater and was awarded a Bronze Star for meritorious service.

Morgenthau Family Collection

Morgenthau family papers

The Morgenthau family collection documents the interpersonal relationships between members of the family of Henry Jr. and Elinor Morgenthau and their children, Henry III, Robert, and Joan. Series 1, a chronological series, includes family documents, miscellaneous correspondence, clippings, school papers, publications, invitations, calling cards, business materials, photographs, and other ephemera collected by members of the family throughout the 20th century. Henry Morgenthau III is the nexus of the collection therefore many of the documents from the 1930s relate to his schooling, the 1940s relate to his wartime military service, and post-war folders to his business ventures and work with public radio and television. The 1930s include his diary written on a trip to Europe, including references to meetings with Ambassadors Steinhardt and Bullit, and conversations with Martha Dodd. The folders related to Princeton University include an anonymous anti-Semitic note sent to Henry III, and the folders related to the late 1930s include correspondence from Herbert Lehman, governor of New York, to his niece, Elinor Morgenthau, about sponsoring German relatives seeking to immigrate from Nazi Germany. Series 2 contains personal correspondence between members of the family. This series includes love letters between Henry Morgenthau Jr. and Elinor Fatman prior to their marriage, including letters sent from Henry while visiting his father while Henry Sr. was stationed in Constantinople (now Istanbul). The correspondence clearly shows how close the family remained, even after the children in college and serving in the military. Letters between Henry Morgenthau Sr. and Henry Morgenthau, Jr. in 1933-1936 include personal business discussions, as well as materials sent to father and son, including correspondence from people in Germany seeking assistance with immigration. In 1944-1945, Henry Morgenthau Jr. dictated letters to his sons about projects at the Treasury Department, including War Bonds, Bretton Woods, and the Morgenthau Plan for post-war Germany. As Elinor Morgenthau was hospitalized in Florida from March-May 1945, Henry’s correspondence to her and to his children document his personal feelings about the end of the war, the death of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and his resignation from the Treasury Department in July 1945. Series 3 includes invitations and parking instructions sent to Henry Morgenthau III for White House functions and dinners, most of them informal. This series also includes tickets to inaugural events for Franklin Roosevelt and for Herbert Lehman, as well as original and copies of correspondence between the Roosevelts and Morgenthaus, dating from 1914-1963. Series 4 contains materials collected or created by Henry Morgenthau, III, while researching his manuscript, “Mostly Morgenthaus.” The collection includes transcripts of oral histories conducted by Morgenthau with members of his extended family, with Treasury Department staff members, and with family friends. This series also includes original correspondence and documents related to these individuals. Series 5 relates to the actual research, writing, and publication of “Mostly Morgenthaus,” written by Henry Morgenthau III, which was published by Ticknor and Fields in 1991. Subseries 1, the research series, includes extensive family research, correspondence, clippings, articles, photocopies of archival documents, handwritten and typed notes, and other material gathered prior to writing the text of the book. Subseries 2 includes drafts of various chapters and of the manuscript as a whole. Subseries 3 relates to the actual editing, publication, and publicity surrounding the book. Series 6 includes a series Colliers magazine articles written by Henry Morgenthau, Jr. in 1947, a New York Times magazine article written by Henry Morgenthau, Jr. in 1949, and a “Mostly Morgenthaus” galley. Series 7, consisting of digital copies of typed memoirs written by Henry Morgenthau III, is restricted. Series 8 through 11 consist of photographic materials, albums, and scrapbooks documenting the Morgenthau family and their personal and professional lives. There is a great deal of overlap among these series in terms of subjects, individuals, and events. Series 8 contains personal and official photographs of members of the Morgenthau family, friends, and colleagues and significant locations in Morgenthau family history. Individuals include Henry Morgenthau, Sr. Henry Morgenthau, Jr. Henry Morgenthau III Lazarus, Josephine, Alma, Elinor, Robert, Joan, and Ruth Morgenthau Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt John F. Kennedy Treasury Department officials and Marlene Dietrich. Locations include Krumbach, Germany, Goodhart family home, Fishkill Farms, and Hupfel House. Series 9 includes miscellaneous photographs, negatives, and corresponding materials. They depict some of the people in Series 8 and document Princeton summer camp, Deerfield Academy, and travel to Luxembourg, Greece, Germany, the United Kingdom, Athens, Munich, United Kingdom, Martha’s Vineyard, Jamaica, France, and Sri Lanka. Series 10 contains oversize photographs, photograph albums, and scrapbooks including photographs and newspaper clippings documenting many of the people in Series 8 and Series 9 as well as Morris and Lisette Fatman, Msgr John Patrick Carroll-Abbing, the Mayer Lehman family, Harriet Haas, and Roosevelt’s cabinet members. Photographs also depict a November 1945 dinner honoring Henry Morgenthau, Jr. and travel to Israel, Arizona, Greece, Cleveland, Canada, and Alaska.

Vote for Morgenthau sash

Vote for Morgenthau sash owned by Henry Morgenthau III, who was an officer in the United States Army, Second Cavalry, ca. 1941-1945. He served in combat in the European theater and was awarded a Bronze Star for meritorious service.


Secretary Morgenthau's Report on the Acquiescence of the US Government in the Murder of the Jews

The notorious Breckinridge Long memo was only the tip of the iceberg of the State Department obstructionist attitude and practices, much of it went undetected for most of the war. But things finally began to change in 1944.

On the one hand, Jewish organizations, activists, and witnesses who escaped Europe, provided mounting evidence about the systematic killing of Jew and other minorities in Europe. On the other, officers from the Treasury Department headed by Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr., 1 found ample evidence that the State Department was not only inactive in helping Jewish refugees, but also actively trying to stop them from escaping Nazi atrocities. After repeated efforts to persuade the president to act, Morgenthau’s aides put together the report below. Secretary Morgenthau then took it to the President. 2 As a result of this report FDR ordered, the establishment of a War Refugee Board which was involved in saving as many as 200,000 Jews. The War Refugee board also provided funds to Raul Wallenberg in his effort to protect the Jews of Hungary.



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