Morgenthau, Ambassador Henry, Sr.

Henry Morgenthau (1856-1946) was United States ambassador to the Ottoman Empire during the Armenian Genocide. A naturalized American from a German Jewish family, Morgenthau was a successful lawyer active in Democratic Party politics. With the election of President Woodrow Wilson, he was appointed United States Ambassador to the Sublime Porte in 1913. In Constantinople he established personal contact with the Young Turk leaders of the Ottoman Empire, especially the Minister of the Interior, Talaat, with whom he unsuccessfully intervened to alleviate the plight of the Armenian population when beginning in April, 1915, news of the deportations and massacres began to reach the Embassy. The US consulates in the interior of the Ottoman Empire relayed a stream of alarming reports detailing the extent of the measures taken against the Armenians. Despite the difficulties of communication during the war, Oscar H. Heizer in Trebizond, Leslie A. Davis in Mamuret-el-Aziz, or Harput (Kharpert in Armenian), and especially Jesse B. Jackson in Aleppo regularly posted the Embassy with their own eyewitness accounts of the treatment of the Armenians. On June 5, 1915, Jackson shared his views about the persecutions with the Ambassador and concluded that they constituted "a carefully planned scheme to thoroughly extinguish the Armenian race." Morgenthau forwarded all the reports to Washington, D.C. The accumulating evidence also led Morgenthau to cable the Department of State on July 16, 1915, with his own dispatch that "a campaign of race extermination is in progress." Drained by his failure to avert this disaster, Morgenthau returned to the United States in 1916 and for the remainder of the war years he dedicated himself to raising funds for the surviving Armenians. In 1918 he published Ambassador Morgenthau's Story, a memoir of his years in Turkey, in which he stressed the German influence and role in the Ottoman Empire. He titled the chapter on the Armenians, "The Murder of a Nation." He described the deportations and the atrocities as a "cold-blooded, calculating state policy." He avowed at the time: "I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this." Morgenthau was the father of Henry Morgenthau Jr., Secretary of the Treasury during the administration of US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

--Rouben Paul Adalian