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Morgenthau Report


By accident, reading the microfilm of The New York Times for 1918-20, I discovered the Morgenthau report, which I knew nothing of.Indeed no one knows of this report on the anti-Jewish violence in Poland after Nov. 11,1918, written by Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr. after his visit to Poland in summer 1919 at the request of our President(and the formal support of the new Polish government).Its content is very disturbing:some 280 unarmed Jews slaugthered by the Polish army and associated forces, with dozens of Jews in Minsk and Pinsk simply lined up against the wall and executed by regular Polish army troops; Jews in Vilna marched to the city's outskirts and gunned down;Jews impressed to do "forced labor" regardless of age or infirmity, and much else.

Is this official US government document de facto suppressed? The sole reference I can find to it is in the Jewish encyclop. from 1971 and there the sense is given that it was a whitewash of the Poles! Is this document not relevant to the Nazi terror that came later? Morgenthau indeed notes that "most of the non-Jewish press" in Poland wants a policy that would lead to "ridding Poland of its Jewish element."!! So if you could give a reply/commentary on this that could clarify matters.

Harry W. Mazal OBE answers:

I am one of the persons in the Project who responds to such queries. It is possible that other colleagues of mine will also wish to respond.

It is my understanding that all official documents and records related to the Foreign Service of the Department of State are available at the National Archives under Record Group 84. There are a few restrictions on documents less than 75 years old, but I cannot see that the actions in Poland against the Jews in 1918 or 1919 would fall into any of the restricted categories. The Freedom of Information Act would, in most cases, force the Archives to release any but the most delicate even if they were less than 75-years old. I was able to get documents of a very delicate nature that were written in 1944. In any case, this is a moot point as you will see towards the end of this letter because the entire report was published in the newspapers.

You might also want to read a book written by Morgenthau Sr.:

Morgenthau, Henry, Sr.- All In A Lifetime -Doubleday Page & Go., Garden City, N.Y., 1922.

Or write to the Library of Congress:

"The largest public collection of papers relating to the life and career of Ambassador Henry Morgenthau (1856-1946), is preserved in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Housed in the Library's 'Manuscript Division; under the title 'The Papers of Henry Morgenthau; they consist of approximately 30,000 items which are made available to researchers in the form of a set of 41 reels of microfilm."

I was surprised to discover: http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/biography/tuchman.html

"Barbara Wertheim was born on January 30, 1912, in New York City, to Alma and Maurice Wertheim, both of their families were distinguished. Her father was a banker, publisher, philanthropist and was president of the American Jewish Committee, 1941-1943.

Her maternal grandfather, Henry Morgenthau Sr., was ambassador to Turkey, and her uncle, Henry Morgenthau Jr., was Secretary of the Treasury under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. [...] In 1939, she married Dr. Lester Reginald Tuchman, a New York Internist, and they had three daughters. "

Another book by Morgenthau might also refer to the report:

All In a Life Time.
Henry Morgenthau
c, 1922, Doubleday, Page & Co

Finally, and I apologize for the length of this missive, I have found a description of the massacres in:

Israel Cohen
c. 1943, Jewish Publication Society
ISBN 0-8276-0415-7

This is a book which I recommend for an accurate depiction of the crimes against the Jews that took place in Poland shortly after World War I, and the various Commissions which made reports to their governments.

On pages 377-382, "5. The Polish Liberation," the author describes the murders of Jews. Brief excerpts are quoted below:

"The arrival of the new 'liberators' opened a fresh chapter of Jewish agony. The Bolsheviks, before retreating, made their last stand from the old Jewish cemetery at Shnipishok. This circumstance, together with the fact that some Jews had sided with them, although many Poles had likewise done so, sufficed to make the Polish legionaries see a Bolshevik in every Jew. After a couple of days' fighting the Bolsheviks were driven to flight, whereupon the legionaries defiled and desecrated the cemetery, smashed the tombstones, and opened up the graves (including some of Vilna's earliest rabbis) in the belief that they would find in them arms and money. Disappointed in their search, the Poles transferred their attention from the dead to the living and ran amuck in the Jewish quarter. For three days they seized Jews in the streets, dragged them out of their homes, bludgeoned them savagely, and looted their houses and shops. About eighty Jews were shot, mostly in the district of Lipuvka, where some were ordered to dig their own graves; others were buried alive, and others were drowned, with their hands tied, in the Vilia. On April 21 [1919] a detachment of soldiers fired at a house from which they said, Jews had been shooting through a window. They drove out all the occupants, who included the writers A. Weiter, Lieb Jaffe, and Samuel Niger. Weiter was shot on the spot; the two others were seized and imprisoned for several days. [The author goes on in this vein for several long paragraphs].


"On July 19, there arrived an Inquiry Commission sent by President Wilson, and headed by Mr. Henry Morgenthau, a former American ambassador to Turkey. The purpose of the commission was to ascertain the facts about the atrocities and to find a means of bringing about the conciliation of the Poles with the Jews. It proved a failure, for, although it heard a few hundred witnesses and took 1500 'protocols' of cases of looting, assault, and murder, its report, which was published in January, 1920, utterly failed to give an adequate account of the extent and character of the disorders or to express unqualified condemnation of those responsible."

In an explanatory note on page 512, the author writes [heavily excerpted]:

"The Mission consisted of Mr. Henry Morgenthau, Brigadier General Edgar Jadwin, and Mr. Homer Johnson. It had been appointed by the 'American Commission to Negotiate Peace, " which sat in Paris in 1919.


"The Mission was in Poland for two months from July 13 to September 13, 1919. Its report which was published in full in the *New York Times* of January 19, 1920, provoked a controversy which raged on both sides of the Atlantic for several months. Of the four closely-printed columns of small type, only a paragraph was devoted to Vilna, confined solely to the incidents of April 19-21. [...] "

I hope that this is of some use to you in your research.

Yours sincerely,

Harry W. Mazal OBE

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