Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Andrew Morris




morgenthau, jewish, department, morgenthau’s, efforts


This thesis examines the role of Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr., the highest ranking Jewish official in FDR’s administration, in the United States government’s failure to intervene on behalf of the European Jews from 1938-1945. The analysis of Morgenthau’s role relies on documents from his diaries and the Special Collection concerning the Holocaust and Refugees, both located at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library. This thesis provides a more balanced account of Henry Morgenthau’s role than that of previous scholars. It justifies Morgenthau’s failure to challenge the State Department and President Roosevelt to relax immigration measures during the late 1930s, by discussing Morgenthau’s highly secular upbringing that stressed distancing himself from his Jewish heritage. Learning in the fall of 1942 of the Nazis’ systematic murder of European Jewry, and of an opportunity to authorize payments in France and Romania to save Jewish lives, Morgenthau devoted more energy and Treasury Department resources to helping the Jewish refugees. Throughout 1942, Morgenthau worked with the State Department trying to help the European Jews. Not until December of 1943 did Morgenthau gain knowledge of the covert opposition to his efforts from within the State Department. Upon learning this information, Morgenthau took control of the situation, and pushed FDR to establish the War Refugee Board. He then directed the board’s efforts from behind the scenes. In doing so, he was forced to re-evaluate his stance toward his own Jewish identity. Ultimately, this thesis concludes that Morgenthau should not be held to a higher standard than the other officials within the Roosevelt administration because of his lack of a Jewish consciousness. Despite the fact that his efforts were too little, too late, Morgenthau should be commended for his actions, which forced the United States to make some semblance of an organized effort to aid the Jews of Europe.