Armenian National Institute Director Dr. Rouben Adalian, Armenian Assembly President Carolyn Mugar, Kramer Morgenthau, Kitty Dukakis, Henry Morgenthau III, and Dr. Henry Ben Morgenthau at Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide Memorial

Henry Morgenthau II, Grandson of Ambassador Morgenthau, Dies at 101; Lifelong Supporter of US Recognition of Armenian Genocide


WASHINGTON — Henry Morgenthau III, who dedicated himself to honoring the memory of his grandfather, Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, passed away on July 11 at age 101. The cause was complications from aortic stenosis, his daughter Sarah Morgenthau said.

In public presentations, in television appearances and in numerous publications, Henry Morgenthau III recounted his recollections of his grandfather with whom he lived in New York City. He was honored on many occasions by Armenian organizations across the country.

Henry Morgenthau III

The Armenian National Institute and the Armenian Assembly of America organized his trip to Armenia in 1999 where he was honored by the National Academy of Sciences, the Armenian Genocide Museum, and the City of Yerevan.

Morgenthau was joined by his sons Dr. Henry Ben Morgenthau and Kramer Morgenthau, as well as Armenian Assembly President Carolyn Mugar, longtime personal friend from the time of his residence in Cambridge, Mass., and Kitty Dukakis, wife of the former governor of the state of Massachusetts and a board member of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Henry Morgenthau III with his grandsons, before the portrait of his grandfather, Ambassador Morgenthau

“My grandfather frequently told me that his attempts to save Armenian lives at the time of the Genocide and the establishment of the Near East Relief effort were the achievements that meant the most to him,” Morgenthau explained on the occasion.  Ambassador Morgenthau served as President Woodrow Wilson’s emissary to the Ottoman Empire during World War I.

With Henry Morgenthau III’s endorsement, in 1996 the Armenian Assembly of America established the Henry Morgenthau Award for Meritorious Public Service which is given out to public officials in recognition of their contributions in defense of human rights.  Recipients of the Assembly’s Morgenthau Award include the first US Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia Harry Gilmore and US Ambassador John Evans who publicly called for official US recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

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“The Armenian people have lost a true friend with Henry’s passing. His grandfather Ambassador Henry Morgenthau played a critical role as the first opponent of genocide on the world stage as he defended the Armenian people. With his first-hand familiarity of his grandfather’s legacy, Henry stood with the Armenian people throughout his life, always ready to step up immediately to lend his gravitas in support of all essential issues for Armenians,” stated Armenian Assembly President Carolyn Mugar.

Henry Morgenthau III

“Despite his advancing age, Henry continued to participate in Armenian Genocide commemorative and advocacy events. He was honored at the community-wide Centennial Genocide Commemoration in Washington, D.C. in 2015, where he walked on stage surrounded by his children and grandchildren. The Morgenthaus are legendary within the Armenian community, who are grateful that this noted family validated their traumatic history as a people by informing the entire world,” she continued.

A scion of a prominent German-Jewish family, Morgenthau was a son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s treasury secretary, the older brother of former Manhattan district attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, and a cousin of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Barbara W. Tuchman.

He grew up moving comfortably among Washington and New York political and literary society, although he said his Jewish heritage made him often feel like an outsider at times. That contradiction would inform his professional life as a teller of stories, on screen and in print.

His years as a producer at WGBH in Boston, from 1955 to 1977, coincided with the birth of public television. Mr. Morgenthau was inspired by “the whole concept of using television to educate and also tell stories of marginalized people in society,” his son Kramer Morgenthau said.

He was among the first American TV producers to bring a crew into apartheid South Africa. He also produced “Prospects of Mankind,” a weekly show hosted by former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt featuring roundtable discussions of foreign and domestic affairs with political, academic and media experts.

As executive producer at WGBH, one of the country’s premier public television outlets, his shows won Peabody and Emmy awards, among other honors. His 1963 program “The Negro and the American Promise” consisted of one-on-one interviews with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.Malcolm X and James Baldwin. It aired at a fraught period, after Alabama Gov. George Wallace defiantly declared support for “segregation forever” and before the March on Washington. Footage from the Baldwin interview appeared in the Oscar-nominated documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” (2016).

In 1991, he wrote Mostly Morgenthaus, a book about his family that chronicles the lives of his great-grandfather, a Bavarian cigar maker who moved to New York in 1866, and his grandfather, Henry Morgenthau Sr., who unsuccessfully pushed the US to intervene in the 1915 Armenian genocide.

His father, Henry Morgenthau Jr., played an integral role in designing the New Deal and in financing US participation in World War II. He pushed for the US to do more to help Jews suffering persecution in Europe, and continued to help shape foreign policy after the war.

“He grew up at a time when the government — and certainly the New Deal — was looking out for the underdog of society,” said Kramer Morgenthau. “That was tremendously inspiring to him, and at the same time he had tremendous pressure on him to live up to his family’s reputation. . . . I think he needed to find his own voice.”

Henry Morgenthau III was born at home in New York City on January 11, 1917. He was the oldest of three children of the former Elinor Fatman and Henry Morgenthau Jr., and a great-grandson of Mayer Lehman, a co-founder of the securities firm Lehman Brothers.

Morgenthau attended Princeton University, where he majored in art history, ran cross-country, joined the glee club and served on the editorial board of the student newspaper. Despite his family’s social prominence he was, along with several other Jewish students, denied entry into the university’s prestigious eating clubs.

The following year, he “transcended his hurt and transformed a personal attack into a kind of mitzvah,” author David Michaelis, a longtime friend, wrote in an email to Mr. Morgenthau’s children after his death.

Each week during that winter, Michaelis added, “Henry had gone to the rear doors of the most selective of Prospect Street’s eating clubs, and from the African American cooks there in those kitchens, he had received the kindness of large quantities of leftovers and scraped food from the club tables, and he had transported this Depression-era manna back across campus and down Witherspoon Street to the African American parish that ran a food kitchen for the neediest in the community.”

After graduating in 1939, Morgenthau served in the Army in Europe during World War II and received the Bronze Star Medal.

In addition to his work at WGBH, he also was acting program manager at WNYC in New York, worked with Eleanor Roosevelt on a radio and TV production business, and served as manager of a communication research institute at Brandeis University.

While working on a documentary about Tanzania, he was introduced to Ruth Schachter, an African politics expert who taught at Boston University and later at Brandeis. They married in 1962.

His wife died in 2006. Survivors include three children, Sarah Morgenthau of Washington, Henry “Ben” Morgenthau IV of Danville, Calif., and Kramer Morgenthau of Los Angeles; his brother; and six grandchildren.

Morgenthau settled in Washington from the Boston area in 2010 and took up a new vocation: writing poetry. Just before turning 100 he published his first collection, A Sunday in Purgatory. The poems draw on his memories coming of age in 1930s New York; his father’s account of Franklin Roosevelt’s final dinner; and musings on old age and mortality.

(Tara Bahrampour, Washington Post)

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