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Ambassador Morgenthau's Story
by Henry Morgenthau
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"By this time the American people have probably become convinced that the Germans deliberately planned the conquest of the world. Yet they hesitate to convict on circumstantial evidence and for this reason all eye witnesses to this, the greatest crime in modern history, should volunteer their testimony..."
It was some time before the story of the Armenian atrocities reached the American Embassy in all its horrible details. In January and February fragmentary reports began to filter in, but 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 reports came from Urumia, both Enver and Talaat dismissed them as wild exaggerations.
From the Publisher
Originally published in 1918, "Ambassador Morgenthau's Story" is one of the most insightful and compelling accounts of what became a recurring horror during the 20th century: ethnic cleansing and genocide. While he served as the U.S. ambassador to the Ottoman Empire under Woodrow Wilson from 1913 to 1916, Henry Morgenthau witnessed the rise of a new nationalism in Turkey, one that declared "Turkey for the Turks." He grew alarmed as he received reports from missionaries and consuls in the interior of Turkey that described deportation and massacre of the Armenians. The ambassador beseeched the U.S. government to intervene, but it refrained, leaving Morgenthau without official leverage. His recourse was to appeal personally to the consciences of Ottoman rulers and their German allies; when that failed, he drew international media attention to the genocide and spearheaded private relief efforts.
From the Back Cover
Henry Morgenthau was United States ambassador to Ottoman Turkey between 1913 and 1916. In 1914 he witnessed the Ottoman entry into World War I and the genocide of the empire's Armenian population. "Ambassador Morgenthau's Story" was an indictment against the Ottoman leaders for their entry into the world conflict and the mass murder of over a million Armenians. His account was written with the authority of a first-hand observer and remains one of the classic accounts of World War I. "Ambassador Morgenthau's Story" is published as part of the Gomidas Institute Armenian Genocide Documentation Series, alongside "American Diplomacy on the Bosphorus: The Diaries of Ambassador Morgenthau," the systematic collection "United States Diplomatic and Consular Records on the Armenian Genocide," and the British classic "The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915" (uncensored edition).
Cover photo: Henry Morgenthau (in white tie and top hat) talking to Enver Pasha, the Minister of War, at the funeral of German ambassador Hans Wangenheim, Constantinople, 1915. Walking a few steps immediately ahead is Talaat Pasha, the Minister of Interior. Credit: Library of Congress, Henry Morgenthau Senior Collection.
"We care nothing about the commercial loss," replied Talaat. "We have figured all that out and we know that it will not exceed five million pounds. We don't worry about that. I have asked you to come here so as to let you know that our Armenian policy is absolutely fixed and that nothing can change it. We will not have the Armenians anywhere in Anatolia. They can live in the desert but nowhere else."
I still attempted to persuade Talaat that the treatment of the Armenians was destroying Turkey in the eyes of the world, and that his country would never be able to recover from this infamy.
"You are making a terrible mistake," I said, and I repeated the statement three times.
"Yes, we may make mistakes," he replied, "but"-and he firmly closed his lips and shook his head-"we never regret."
I had many talks with Talaat on the Armenians, but I never succeeded in moving him to the slightest degree. He always came back to the points which he had made in this interview. He was very willing to grant any request I made in behalf of the Americans or even of the French and English, but I could obtain no general concessions for the Armenians. He seemed to me always to have the deepest personal feeling in this matter, and his antagonism to the Armenians seemed to increase as their sufferings increased. One day, discussing a particular Armenian, I told Talaat that he was mistaken in regarding this man as an enemy of the Turks; that in reality he was their friend.
"No Armenian," replied Talaat, "can be our friend after what we have done to them."
One day Talaat made what was perhaps the most astonishing request I had ever heard. The New York Life Insurance Company and the Equitable Life of New York had for years done considerable business among the Armenians. The extent to which this people insured their lives was merely another indication of their thrifty habits.
"I wish," Talaat now said, "that you would get the American life insurance companies to send us a complete list of their Armenian policy holders. They are practically all dead now and have left no heirs to collect the money. It of course all escheats to the State. The Government is the beneficiary now. Will you do so?"
This was almost too much, and I lost my temper.
"You will get no such list from me," I said, and I got up and left him.
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