Ambassador Morgenthau Story

Supporters of the Armenian Genocide thesis often refer to Ambassador Morgenthau's story – a book published in the name of the American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire shortly before, during and after World War One – to prove that they are justified in their accusation of genocide. Since Henry Morgenthau Sr. was an ambassador of an initially neutral country, many Westerners assumed around 1918 and continue to assume today that his 'diary' was objective in its reflections of what happened to the Armenian population of Ottoman Turkey in 1915.

Ambassador Morgenthau Story

Sadly, however, reputed historians have shown that what is known as Ambassador Morgenthau's Story is nothing short of a fantastic novel.

It is stated in Ambassador Morgenthau's Story that the book gives a fair and objective account of Morgenthau's experiences in the Ottoman Empire. The 'recollections' in the book are, the reader is told to believe, factual and accurate. With this in mind, the reader of the ambassador's book cannot help but believe the Armenian claims that they were subjected to the first genocide of the 20th century are correct. As Morgenthau tells the story in his published diary, the Ottoman rulers passionately hated the Armenians and purposefully tried to wipe out their empire's Armenian population.

Although the story is gripping and fascinating, the truth is that it cannot be considered an objective, fair, or even slightly accurate account of what happened. Below are the reasons why historians – but not Armenian activists - have decided to ignore this book when they talk or write about the Armenian Genocide allegations because it is nothing but an ancient piece of propaganda.

Morgenthau's Pro-War Propaganda

Morgenthau believed, like US President Woodrow Wilson, that the United States should join the Western Allies against the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary) and the Ottoman Empire in the First World War. The American people were, however, not willing to send their young men to die on a continent far away, for a cause not theirs. To be able to join the war, Wilson and Morgenthau understood that they needed the support of the majority of the American people. To accomplish this, they had to spread pro-war propaganda at home.

The ambassador himself wrote in letters to President Woodrow Wilson that he was planning to write a book about the situation in the Ottoman Empire with the goal to "convince them of the necessity of carrying the war to a victorious conclusion," which could only be accomplished by US participation on the side of the Allies. [1] "We must win a victory for the war policy of the government," he went on to write, "and every legitimate step or means should be utilized to accomplish it." Woodrow Wilson gave Morgenthau permission to write the book and Morgenthau subsequently dedicated the book to Woodrow Wilson.

Morgenthau did indeed help write this book, and it also got published. It is known today as "Ambassador Morgenthau's Story"; a work about which the author himself admits that it was meant as a piece of propaganda.

Morgenthau Did Not Write His Book Himself, But By His Armenian Secretaries

Furthermore, Ambassador Morgenthau's Story was not written by the Ambassador himself, but by his two Armenian secretaries. As such, it should have been titled Ambassador Morgenthau's Story as written by his Armenian Secretaries. One of these secretaries was Hagop S. Andonian. Interestingly enough, he shares the same surname with the man who published The Memoirs of Naim Bey; this other Andonian pretended that Talat Pasha (Minister of Interior) had sent orders to the Ottoman army to inflict genocide upon the Armenians. He said he received these top secret documents and telegrams from an Ottoman official named "Naim Bey" whose existence has never been proven. Sadly it was proven without a doubt that these 'telegrams' were forgeries.

Morgenthau admits in one of his letters to his family back in the United States that these two Armenian secretaries have written the book for him. The ambassador simply gave them his real diary and let them rewrite it and add content to it as they saw fit. Knowing full well that his secretaries added lies and distortions to his 'diary,' Morgenthau refused to take responsibility for the content of the book and tried to distance himself from it by writing that "I have really found it impossible to sit down and dictate a letter quietly. So I have instructed Andonian to take my diary and copy it with some elaborations of his own. Of course this relieves me of any responsibility for any errors" [2]

Interestingly enough, Morgenthau chose not to thank his two secretaries in 'his' book. This while he thanked many others, none of whom were so valuable to him as his two Armenian friends and co-authors. It begs the question whether it can be that "Morgenthau felt that reference to his dependence on his Armenian assistants […] might appear strange in a book devoted partially to the Armenian Question?" [3]

Morgenthau's Ghostwriters

Ambassador Morgenthau had little to no knowledge of the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish people, the Armenian people, and he did not even speak Turkish. Therefore, he had to rely on others for intimate knowledge about the Ottoman Empire and especially the Ottoman East. The person he relied on for information about what was happening in the empire was yet another Armenian, Arshag K. Schmavonian [4]

In the end Morgenthau was not sure whether his book would enrage Americans enough to support the US government's "pro-war policy." That is why he decided to send his book to the journalist Burton J. Hendrick who later became known as the "ghostwriter" of the book. It was he, who had never sat foot in Turkey nor knew anything about the war, who gave the book its finishing touches. His role was so important that Morgenthau agreed to share 40% of the royalties of sales of the book with Hendrick [5]

Hendrick later said that he had "one job of 'ghosting,'" that job being "the elder Henry Morgenthau's Reminiscences." He added that this book "created quite a good deal of interest" and that he "worked with Henry all the time… The writing of my books on Sims and Morgenthau was very interesting – more or less of a job". [6]

As such, it cannot be said that Ambassador Morgenthau's Story is the memoirs of one individual. According to Heath Lowry,

Heath Lowry wrote:
[It is] less the memoirs of one individual, Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, than a memoir by committee as it were. Morgenthau's Istanbul notes […], are reworked initially by Morgenthau and Andonian, together with Hendrick; edited for content by Schmavonian […]; then fine tuned by the Secretary of State Robert Lansing […]; and, finally written down as Ambassador Morgenthau's Story by Burton J. Hendrick.
This despite the fact that the book and those who use it as evidence in the public debate insist that it is a truthful and accurate account of Morgenthau's experiences in the Ottoman Empire.

Heavy Amounts of Racism

Ambassador Morgenthau's Story is riddled with racist remarks about the Turks in order to vilify them for Americans to pressure the government to join World War I.

Morgenthau writes "The Armenians, are known for their industry, their intelligence, and their decent and orderly lives. They are so superior to the Turks intellectually and morally" [7]

Morgenthau writes about the Turks and establishes his racism by claiming the Turks are "psychologically primitive" [8] and "like most primitive peoples, [Turks] wear their emotions on the surface" [9]. He continues to present the Turks as primitive and inferior similar to how Nazis presented the Jews: "[The Turks are] inarticulate, ignorant, and poverty-ridden slaves" [10], that they are "barbarous" [11], "brutal" [12], "ragged and unkempt" [13], and are "parasites" [14].

Henry Morgenthau, in Ambassador Morgenthau's Story wrote:

Instead of a nation of nearly 20,000,000, developing happily along democratic lines, enjoying suffrage, building up their industry and agriculture, laying the foundations for universal education, sanitation, and general progress, I saw that Turkey consisted of merely so many inarticulate, ignorant, and poverty-ridden slaves, with a small, wicked oligarchy at the top, which was prepared to use them in the way that would best promote its private interests.

False Quotes

Another reason why Ambassador Morgenthau's Story cannot be taken seriously as 'evidence' for the Armenian Genocide thesis is that the quotes in it which are attributed to Ottoman leaders, especially to Talat Bey, are most likely invented by Hendrick. In the book, Talat Pasha, is presented as a ruthless, irreligious man, who frequently talks about his desire to perpetrate an Armenian genocide.

However, Morgenthau's real diary and papers (containing accounts of meetings with Talat Pasha) give an entirely different view of the Ottoman leader. One such example is the following quote from Ambassador Morgenthau's Story: "I can personally testify that he cared nothing for Mohammedanism for, like most of the leaders of his party, he scoffed at all religions. 'I hate all priests, rabbis and hodjas,´ he once told me."

In his real diary, however, Morgenthau wrote the opposite. The only time that he mentioned Talat Pasha's religions was on July 10, 1914, when he wrote: "Talaat told me that he was the most religious in cabinet; and that Djavid had none and Djemal little." Additionally, Morgenthau's papers and diary from Constantinople repeatedly talk about Talat Pasha's close friendship with several religious leaders (Jews, Christians and Muslims alike).

The 'scoffing at all religions' seems to be invented by the journalist Hendrick, with the intention to vilify Talat Pasha [15]

The ambassador also writes in his book that he talked to Talat Pasha about the treatment (expulsion) of the Greek living in the Ottoman Empire. He writes that he objected to their treatment but that Talat was not interested in Morgenthau's concerns. Once again Morgenthau's real diary proves the account given in his book to be false; the only times this subject is mentioned there is not a hint of expressed opposition by Morgenthau, nor of ruthlessness from Talat Pasha. Instead, Morgenthau wrote in his diary that Talat and his fellow leaders were "determined to such Greeks as live out of their cities to part from their country as peaceably and as soon as possible" [16]

Finally, Talat Pasha is portrayed as an overly nationalistic individual in Ambassador Morgenthau's Story while this was in fact not the case. In the book Talat is 'quoted' as saying that he and his fellow Young Turk leaders wanted to create a "Turkey for the Turks." When one looks at Morgenthau's papers, documents, reports and real diary of the time, however, no such statement is recorded, nor has there a similar statement made by Talat Pasha been recorded on any other occasion, by any other trustworthy person. The only reason for Morgenthau to include this 'quote' in his book, then, was to portray Turks as racist, nationalistic, and filled with hate towards those who were not like them; even though the truth was quite the opposite [17]

Morgenthau wrote, in the same vein, that Talat told him that he, Talat, "did more to crush the Armenians in three months" than Sultan AbdulHamid II did in thirty years. This quote too, is not a quote at all but, instead, made up by either Morgenthau or his co-authors [18] in an attempt to portray the Ottoman leaders "as evil incarnate, in his desire to 'personalize' the evil of the war" and by doing so, convince Americans to support the pro-war policy of the Woodrow Wilson. [19]

The Focus on Germans and Ottomans

Many authors cite that the hatred focused on Ottomans and Germans seems to be engineered for the specific purpose of promoting war propaganda against the Central Powers. Thus, many authors cite Ambassador Morganthau's Story as pure propaganda.


Henry Morgenthau received heavy criticism from a variety of sources after the release of Ambassador Morgenthau's Story.

Heath Lowry, an American historian wrote a book called "The Story Behind Ambassador Morgenthau's Story" which features the many lies and contradictions of Henry Morgenthau's book and his actual diaries and telegrams to the government.

Vahakn Dadrian an Armenian historian who believes in the Armenian Genocide, also confirms that there may have been errors in Henry Morgenthau's book and that the actual telegrams are a better source of information.

Guenter Lewy confirmed the contradictions in Ambassador Morgenthau's Story as detailed in Heath Lowry's book. [20].

Ralph Cook also notes the anti-German and anti-Turkish propaganda in the book. [21].

Two other prominent American historians declared Ambassador Morgenthau's Story as a work of propaganda and the opposite of truth.

Sidney Bradshaw Fay, an authority on European diplomatic history and war guilt and the writer of The Origins of the World War, criticized the Ambassador Morgenthau Story on the delay of German war initiation for two weeks or legend of the Potsdam Crown Council of July 5th 1914 by saying:

Sidney Bradshaw Fay wrote:

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, quotes that:

Harry Elmer Barnes wrote:
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.

In addition, Ambassador Morgenthau's Story has been republished in 2003 with an additional introduction by Ara Sarafian, an Armenian historian, and the new edition was edited by Peter Balakian, an Armenian English professor who wrote "The Burning Tigris" regarding the Armenian Genocide allegation.


Ambassador Morgenthau's Story is highly unreliable. It cannot be considered authentic because it was written by people who had vested interests, and who (at least some of them) admitted that the truth was less important to them than accomplishing the greater goal of having the US join World War One. Quotes attributed to Ottoman leaders are false, and Morgenthau's personal diary, papers, reports and other documents often directly contradict his sensational book. Serious students (professional or not) of history should, therefore, dismiss Morgenthau's story for what it is; a piece of ancient war propaganda.


  1. ^ The Story Behind Ambassador Morgenthau's Story by Heath W. Lowry (1918), p. 2
  2. ^ The Story Behind Ambassador Morgenthau's Story by Heath W. Lowry (1918), p. 6
  3. ^ The Story Behind Ambassador Morgenthau's Story by Heath W. Lowry (1918), p. 10
  4. ^ The Story Behind Ambassador Morgenthau's Story by Heath W. Lowry (1918), p. 8
  5. ^ The Story Behind Ambassador Morgenthau's Story by Heath W. Lowry (1918), p. 11
  6. ^ The Story Behind Ambassador Morgenthau's Story by Heath W. Lowry (1918), p. 11
  7. ^ Ambassador Morgenthau's Story by Henry Morgenthau, Hendrick, Andonian, Schmavonian (1918), p. 287
  8. ^ Ambassador Morgenthau's Story by Henry Morgenthau, Hendrick, Andonian, Schmavonian (1918), p. 236
  9. ^ Ambassador Morgenthau's Story by Henry Morgenthau, Hendrick, Andonian, Schmavonian (2005), p. 195
  10. ^ Ambassador Morgenthau's Story by Henry Morgenthau, Hendrick, Andonian, Schmavonian (2005), p. 13
  11. ^ Ambassador Morgenthau's Story by Henry Morgenthau, Hendrick, Andonian, Schmavonian (2005), p. 147
  12. ^ Ambassador Morgenthau's Story by Henry Morgenthau, Hendrick, Andonian, Schmavonian (2005), p. 149
  13. ^ Ambassador Morgenthau's Story by Henry Morgenthau, Hendrick, Andonian, Schmavonian (2005), p. 276
  14. ^ Ambassador Morgenthau's Story by Henry Morgenthau, Hendrick, Andonian, Schmavonian (2005), p. 280
  15. ^ The Story Behind Ambassador Morgenthau's Story by Heath W. Lowry (2005), p. 17
  16. ^ The Story Behind Ambassador Morgenthau's Story by Heath W. Lowry (2005), p. 18
  17. ^ The Story Behind Ambassador Morgenthau's Story by Heath W. Lowry (2005), p. 19
  18. ^ The Story Behind Ambassador Morgenthau's Story by Heath W. Lowry (2005), p. 26
  19. ^ The Story Behind Ambassador Morgenthau's Story by Heath W. Lowry (2005), p. 32
  20. ^ Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey by Guenter Lewy (2005), p. 141
  21. ^ Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey by Guenter Lewy (2005), p. 141
  22. ^ Knopf, 1926) by Harry Elmer Barnes (2005), p. 241-247