Henry Morgenthau: The Evolution of an American Activist

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


American History

Major Professor

G. Kurt Piehler

Committee Members

Stephen V. Ash, David Tompkins


Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr. was a central figure in the FDR administration in more than just fiscal matters. Morgenthau also worked from the 1930’s onward in several arenas to aid the Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust. My research updates and revises the existing historiography by revealing this activism was the logical culmination of years of interest in the fates of Jewish refugees. Furthermore, this activism was affected by several factors beyond Morgenthau’s own control. The administrative style of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, relationships between Morgenthau and other members of the cabinet, and influential undercurrents within the cabinet all limited Morgenthau’s options for rescue and helped determine the outcomes of his actions on behalf of refugees. While Morgenthau has often been a neglected character in the history books, this thesis places him at the center. In doing so, I argue that his involvement both came earlier than most historians assert, and was influenced by factors that have not been previously analyzed as they apply to Morgenthau’s particular historical situation.

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