Henry Morgenthau (April 26, 1856 - November 25, 1946) was a U.S. diplomat, attorney and real estate investor who was active in Democratic Party politics. He was appointed as the U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. He was father of the politician and former Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, Jr. and grandfather of Robert M. Morgenthau, the District Attorney of New York County.
Ambassador Morgenthau was born in Mannheim, Germany in 1856, the son of Lazarus Morgenthau, an extremely successful cigar manufacturer. He was the 9th of 11 living children. Lazarus had cigar factories at Mannheim, Lorsch and Heppenheim, employing as many as 1,000 people. [Mannheim had a population of 21,000 during this period] Having suffered a severe financial setback during the American Civil War, due to an 1862 tobacco tariff on imports, which closed German tobacco exports to the US forever, the family emigrated to New York in 1866. There, Lazaraus, despite a considerable 'nest egg' of cash, was unsuccessful in re-establishing himself in business, as his development and marketing of various inventions and his investments in other enterprises failed. His son, Henry, attended City College, and then graduated from Columbia Law School. He began his career as a lawyer, but he made a substantial fortune in real estate investments. He married Josephine Sykes in 1882 and they had four children, Helen, Alma, Henry Jr. and Ruth. It was his youngest daughter, Ruth Morgenthau Knight, and her daughter, Ellin N. London, and son-in-law, Robert D. London MD, who donated the land and endowment to create the Henry Morgenthau Preserve in Pound Ridge, New York.
Ambassador Morgenthau's successful career enabled him to affect and contribute handsomely to President Woodrow Wilson's 1912 nomination and election campaign of 1912. He also served as financial chairman of the United States Democratic Party in 1912 and again in 1916.
In 1913, Morgenthau was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. He served in this post from 1913-1916. After the outbreak of war, the American embassy, and by extension Morgenthau, represented many of the U.S. Allies in Istanbul, after they evacuated their diplomatic missions due to the escalating hostilities.
In his role as U.S. Ambassador, he became a critical human rights advocate for the plight of the Armenian people and became the voice of authority in alerting the world to what is widely recognized as the Armenian Genocide.
After World War I, he attended the Paris Peace Conference, as an advisor on Eastern Europe and the Middle East. He later worked with war-related charitable bodies, including the Relief Committee for the Middle East, the Greek Refugee Settlement Commission and the American Red Cross. In 1932, he was appointed the American representative at the Second Geneva Naval Conference held to discuss naval arms limitation.
He is the author of several books, most notably a book on the Armenian Genocide titled, “Ambassador Morgenthau's Story” (1919) and “The Secrets of the Bosporus” (1918), which detailed his experiences as the U.S. Ambassador during the last days of the Ottoman Empire. He also authored “The Morgenthau Report”, concerning the mistreatment of Poland’s Jewish Community and “I Was Sent To Athens”, which told of his involvement working with Greek Refugees. The Library of Congress also holds some 30,000 documents from his personal papers.
Ambassador Morgenthau died in New York City in 1946 following a cerebral hemorrhage. He is buried in Hawthorne, New York.
An electronic copy of “Ambassador Morgenthau's Story” is available through the World War Archive at: (http://www.lib.byu.edu/~rdh/wwi/comment/morgenthau/MorgenTC.htm).
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