Henry Morgenthau (April 26, 1856 - November 25, 1946), was a U.S. diplomat and businessman, most famous as the American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. He was father of the politician Henry Morgenthau, Jr. and the grandfather of Robert M. Morgenthau, the current District Attorney of New York County.
He was born in Mannheim, Germany in 1856 into a Bavarian Jewish family of 14 children, the son of Lazarus Morgenthau, who emigrated to the US in 1866. His father was an unsuccessful inventor. Henry Morgenthau graduated from Columbia Law School and made a fortune in real estate. He married Josephine Sykes in 1882 and had four children, Helen, Alma, Henry Jr. and Ruth.
His son, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., later became famous as Secretary of the Treasury, served in that post for an almost unprecedented eleven years, and was the proposer of the notorious Morgenthau Plan in the 1940s. His daughter, Alma Wertheim, was the mother of historian Barbara Tuchman.
Morgenthau's career enabled him to contribute handsomely to President Woodrow Wilson's election campaign in 1912; he was made financial chairman of the United States Democratic Party in 1912 and again in 1916. He was appointed as U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1913-1916; he had hoped for a cabinet post, but was not successful in gaining one. After the outbreak of war, the American embassy - and by extension Morgenthau - also represented many of the Allies in Constantinople, as they had withdrawn their diplomatic missions due to the hostilities.
After the War he attended the Paris Peace Conference, as an advisor regarding Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and 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 1919 he headed the United States government fact-finding mission to Poland resulting in the so-called Morgenthau Report . In 1933, he was the American representative at the Geneva Conference.
He published several books, most notably Ambassador Morgenthau's Story (1919) on the Armenian Genocide, drawing on his experiences as the Ambassador during this period of Turkish history. Secrets of the Bosphorus (1918) also covers this period, whilst I was sent to Athens (1929) deals with his time working with Greek refugees. The Library of Congress holds some 30,000 documents from his personal papers.
He died in 1946 following a cerebral hemorrhage, in New York City, and was buried in Hawthorne, NY.
The first major work on the Armenian Genocide in the West was Ambassador Morgenthau's Story, still an important primary source, which discusses Turkish atrocities against the Armenians. The official Turkish position is that Morgenthau's account is inaccurate .