Ambassador Morgenthau's Story
|Ambassador Morgenthau's Story|
|Author(s)||Henry Morgenthau, Sr.|
|Original title||Ambassador Morgenthau's Story|
|Subject(s)||Literature / Memoirs|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
Ambassador Morgenthau's Story (1918) is the title of the published memoirs of Henry Morgenthau, Sr. covering the time when he was Woodrow Wilson's American ambassador to Constantinople, 1913-1916. The book took over two years to complete. The ghostwriter for Henry Morgenthau was Burton J. Hendrick. However, a comparison with official documents filed by Morgenthau in his role as ambassador shows that the book must have been structured and written extensively by Morgenthau himself.
The book has been used as a primary source regarding Turkish atrocities against the Armenians, the Armenian Genocide.
When published, the book came under criticism by two prominent American historians regarding its coverage of Germany in the weeks before the onset of the war.
The former American Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Morgenthau relates his experience with German-Ottoman relations during the World War. He referred to the CUP as the "Boss System" in the Ottoman Empire, and related how it was proved useful to Germany to bring the Empire to its side. Also the book gives details of Germany's influence in preventing the sale of American warships to Greece. Germany's plans for new territories, coaling stations, and indemnities and closing the Dardanelles and so separates Russia from her Allies. Ottoman Empire's abrogation of the capitulations.
On the Van Resistance
Morgenthau reports from Aleppo and Van. As he quoted the testimonies of the consulate officials, both justified the deportations as necessary to the conduct of the war, suggesting that the complicity of the Armenians of Van with the Russian forces that had overtaken the city justified the persecution of all ethnic Armenians.
In his memoirs, Morgenthau later suggested that, "When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and, in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact."
Discussions with Turkish leaders
It was some time before the story of the Armenian atrocities reached the American Embassy in all its details. Ambassador Morgenthau raised the issue with Talaat Pasha and Enver Pasha in person. When Morgenthau asked both whether the information reaching the embassy was reliable, the tendency was at first to regard them as mere manifestations of the disorders that had prevailed in the Armenian provinces for many years. When the consular reports came from Van and then Urfa, both Enver Pasha and Talaat Pasha dismissed them as wild exaggerations.
The ambassador asked the U.S. Government to intervene, but the United States was not at that time a participant in World War I and could only have made written or verbal protests to the Turkish authorities. This was not done and Morgenthau was left without leverage beyond his personal rapport with those in power; when that failed, he drew international media attention to the genocide and organized private relief efforts.
In the 1920s Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story was subjected to criticism by two prominent American historians. Sidney Bradshaw Fay was an authority on European diplomatic history, a recognised American authority on the question of war guilt and the writer of The Origins of the World War. In the journal Kriegschuldfrage, May, 1925, Fay criticised the sixth chapter of the ambassador's book, on the delay of German war initiation for two weeks or legend of the Potsdam Crown Council of July 5, 1914 and commented:
The contemporary documents now available prove conclusively that there is hardly a word of truth in Mr. Morgenthau’s assertions, either as to (a) the persons present, (b) the Kaiser’s attitude toward delay, (c) the real reasons for delay, or (d) the alleged selling of securities in anticipation of war. In fact his assertions are rather the direct opposite of the truth.
Harry Elmer Barnes, in The Genesis of the World War; an Introduction to the Problem of War Guilt (New York: Knopf, 1926), pp. 241–247) which largely consist of a Sidney Bradshaw Fay quote concludes:
In this luxuriant and voluptuous legend [Kaiser’s alleged Potsdam conference] was not only the chief point in the Allied propaganda against Germany after the publication of Mr. Morgenthau’s book, but it has also been tacitly accepted by Mr. Asquith in his apology, and solemnly repeated by Bourgeois and Pages in the standard conventional French work, both published since the facts have been available which demonstrate that the above tale is a complete fabrication. ... As Mr. Morgenthau has persistently refused to offer any explanation or justification of his "story" or to answer written inquiries as to his grounds for believing it authentic, we are left to pure conjecture in the circumstances. It appears highly doubtful to the present writer that Mr. Morgenthau ever heard of the Potsdam legend while resident in Turkey. It would seem inconceivable that he could have withheld such important information for nearly four years. The present writer has been directly informed by the Kaiser that Wangenheim did not see him in July, 1914. We know that Mr. Morgenthau’s book was not written by himself, but by Mr. Burton J. Hendrick, who later distinguished himself as the editor of the Page letters. We shall await with interest Mr. Hendrick’s explanation of the genesis of the Potsdam fiction as it was composed for Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story.
Another prominent historian, C. Hartley Grattan notices that Morgenthau invented his threat of war of USA against Ottoman Empire, which he affirms to have pronounced in September 1914 during a meeting with Grand Vizier Said Halim Pasha; Grattan adds that Morgenthau "played into the hand of Allied propagandists".
US journalist George Abel Screiner estimates that "It is to be hoped that the future historian will not give too much heed to the drivel one finds in the books of diplomatist-authors. I at least have found these books remarkably unreliable on the part played by the author", and, about Morgenthau's book, notices that Ottoman ministers of Interior and of War, Talat and Enver were "on the best terms with the American ambassador", unlike Morgenthau's allegations in his Memoirs. As early as December 12, 1918, Schreiner writes to Morgenthau a letter criticizing strongly his Story:
"Nor did you possess in Constantinople that omniscience and omnipotence you have arrogated unto yourself in the book. In the interest of truth I will also affirm that you saw little of the cruelty you fasten upon the Turks. Besides that you have killed more Armenians than ever lived in the districts of the uprising. The fate of those people was sad enough without having to be exaggerated as you have done. I have probably seen more of the Armenian affair than all the Armenian attaches of the American embassy together.
To be perfectly frank with you, I cannot applaud your efforts to make the Turk the worst being on earth, and the German worse, if that be possible. You know as well as I do, that Baron Wangenheim all but broke relations with the Turks on one occasion, when to his pleas for the Armenians he was returned a very sharp answer by Talaat Bey, then minister of the interior. Has it ever occurred to you that all governments reserve to themselves the right to put down rebellion? It seems to me that even Great Britain assumed that stand towards the Fathers of the Republic. That the effort of the Turk went beyond all reasonable limits is most unfortunate, but have you ever considered for a moment that in the East they do not view things with the eye of those of the occident?
I wonder what your erstwhile friends in Constantinople think of that effort. Enver especially fares poorly, and this after you had made so much of him. Is it not a fact that Enver Pasha was as enlightened a young leader as could be found? Of course, he was rather inexperienced, as you know somewhat impulsive and given to being confidential, often in the case of untrustworthy characters. Apart from that he was in no respect what you picture him. Of course, if we are to take it for granted that we of the West are saints, then no Turk is any good. You will agree with me, no doubt, that the Turks count among the few gentlemen still in existence."
In 1939, US historian Horace C. Peterson calls Ambassador Morgenthau's Story a “misrepresentation of Armenian atrocities and of German action regarding them”.
In his Ph.D. thesis of 1957, Ralph Elliot Cook notices that the pronounced anti-German outlook of the book is absent of Morgenthau's archives.
In 1990, Heath Lowry publishes an analyzis comparing several allegations of Morgenthau in his book with Morgenthau's personal archives (personal diary, dispatches to Washington, letters to his family), finding many discrepancies and concluding that Morgenthau's allegations against Turkish leaders in his book are unsubstantiated by his archives. Gilles Veinstein, professor of Ottoman and Turkish history at the Collège de France considers as "rather instructive" Heath Lowry's analyzis about Morgenthau
Guenter Lewy "checked some of these alleged differences and found them real", especially about the meetings between Morgenthau and Talat Pasha, so shares Heath Lowry's main conclusions about Ambassador Morgenthau's Story.
Ambassador Morgenthau's Story was republished by Wayne State University Press in 2003, edited by Peter Balakian, with a foreword by Robert Jay Lifton, an introduction by Roger W. Smith, and an epilogue by Henry Morgenthau III.
- Republished 2003 by the Gomidas Institute. The new edition features an introduction by Ara Sarafian.
- The book was dedicated to Wilson.
- Ambassador Morgenthau's Story. 1918. Chapter Twenty-Seven
- A critical commentary to Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story
- C. Hartley Grattan, Why We Fought, New York: The Vanguard Press, 1929, pp. 250-251.
- The Craft Sinister, New York: G. Albert Geyer, 1920, pp. XXI et 126
- Quoted in Heath Lowry, The Story Behind Ambassador Morgenthau's Story, Istanbul: The Isis Press, 1990.
- Propaganda for War. The Campaign against American Neutrality, 1914-1917, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1939, p. 243
- The United States and the Armenian Question, 1894-1924, Flechter School of Law and Diplomacy, 1957, p. 129
- The Story Behin "Ambassador Morgenthau's Story", Istanbul: The Isis Press, 1990
- "Trois questions sur un massacre", L'Histoire, April 1995.
- The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey, Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2005, pp. 140-142.
- Ambassador Morgenthau's Story. 1918. Chapter Twenty-Seven
- Secrets of the Bosphorus by Henry Morgenthau, Sr. (1918) .
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