Morgenthau Report

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The Morgenthau report was a report issued by the United States' commission led by Henry Morgenthau, Sr., Homer H. Johnson, Brigadier General Edgar Jadwin, and from the British side Sir Stuart M. Samuel to investigate reports of mistreatment of Ashkenazi Jews in Poland. The report was published on October 3, 1919.

Western public opinion had become increasingly aware, primarily from newspaper reports, of mistreatment and atrocities committed against Jews in Eastern Europe, following the aftermath of the First World War and the flare-up of several local conflicts (such as the Polish-Ukrainian and Polish-Soviet wars). In June 1919, Herbert Hoover, then head of the American Relief Administration (ARA), after discussions with Polish Prime Minister Ignacy Jan Paderewski, wrote to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson warning that the reports of atrocities were damaging the reputation of Poland, a nascent ally being cultivated by the U.S. to counter Soviet Russia.[1] Hoover, whose ARA oversaw relief efforts in Europe, secured the support of Padrewski through blunt warnings that the reports of atrocities against Jews "could develop into a most serious embarrassment to all of us in connection with the relief of Poland." Such pressure for government action reached the point where President Woodrow Wilson sent an official commission to investigate the matter. The Morgenthau commission was dispatched by the United States to verify those reports.[1][2]

Morgenthau's delegation was met by thousands of Polish Jews in Warsaw and other Polish cities it visited.[1][3] although Morgenthau—an assimilationist critical of Jewish nationalism—was shunned by Polish Zionist leaders. While the Polish Jewish press gave the delegation a warm welcome, the non-Jewish Polish press response ranged from cool to overtly hostile with instances of open expressions of anti-Jewish hostility. The daily Robotnicza called for a complete boycott of Polish Jews, while the leading weekly Mysl Niepodlegla accused Wilson of siding against the Polish people in favor of Jews who "live upon usury, fraud, receiving of stolen goods, white slavery, counterfeiting and willful bankruptcy." While Paderewski had welcomed the investigation, Morgenthau found hostility in other Polish political circles, especially from the camps of National Democratic Party ("Endecja") leader Roman Dmowski and his rival, Chief of State Jozef Pilsudski. Compared to Paderewski, who had substantial U.S. support, Pilsudski at the time was regarded as a less reliable military adventurer, and was described by Morgenthau as a "high-class pirate."[4] Pilsudski resented the interference of Morgenthau's mission in Polish affairs, although he was acknowledged as an opponent of the open anti-semitism of Dmowski and a leader committed to a liberal policy towards Jews and other minorities that respected their rights. Morgenthau immersed himself in meetings with representatives of all segments of Polish society from all sides of the dispute. He attended a packed service for the 35 Jewish victims of the Pinsk massacre of April 1919, noting afterward that "This was the first time I ever completely realized what the collective grief of a persecuted people was like."[2][5][6][7][8][9]

The Morgenthau report ultimately identified eight major incidents in the years 1918–1919, and estimated the number of victims at between 200 and 300 Jews. Four of these were attributed to the actions of deserters and undisciplined individual soldiers; none were blamed on official government policy. Among the incidents investigated by the Morgenthau mission was the Pinsk massacre. In Pinsk, a Polish officer accused a group of Jewish civilians who had gathered at a town meeting to discuss the distribution of American relief aid of being Bolsheviks and of plotting against the Poles. Thirty-five of the men were taken hostage, robbed, and summarily shot. Women were separated from the men and stripped and beaten. The Morgenthau mission issued a strong condemnation of the commander responsible:

While it is recognized that certain information of Bolshevist activities in Pinsk had been reported by two Jewish soldiers, we are convinced that Major Luczynski, the Town Commander, showed reprehensible and frivolous readiness to place credence in such untested assertions, and on this insufficient basis took inexcusably drastic action against reputable citizens whose loyal character could have been immediately established by a consultation with any well known non-Jewish inhabitant.[10]

In Lviv (then Lwów or Lemberg) in 1918, after the Polish Army captured the city, seventy-two Jews were killed by a Polish mob that included Polish soldiers. The report states that in Lemberg Lviv "disreputable elements [from the Polish Army] plundered to the extent of many millions of crowns the dwellings and stores in the Jewish quarter, and did not hesitate to murder when they met with resistance."[11] Some other events in Poland were later found to have been exaggerated, especially by contemporary newspapers such as the New York Times, although serious abuses against the Jews, including pogroms, continued elsewhere, especially in Ukraine.[12] The result of the concern over the fate of Poland's Jews was a series of explicit clauses in the Versailles Treaty protecting the rights of minorities in Poland.[12][13][14] In 1921, Poland's March Constitution gave the Jews the same legal rights as other citizens and guaranteed them religious tolerance.[15]

While critical of some local Polish authorities on scene, the commission also stated that in general the Polish military and civil authorities did do their best to prevent the incidents and their recurrence in the future.[12] It concluded that some forms of discrimination against Jews was of political rather than anti-Semitic nature, rooted in political competition.[12] The report specifically avoided use of the term "pogrom," noting that the term was used to apply to a wide range of "excesses," (Morgenthau's preferred term) and had no specific definition.[12][16] Tadeusz Piotrowski, noted that Morgenthau reasons for avoiding the word pogrom was based on the chaotic conditions existing within a war zone.[16]

Morganthau noted that it would be unfair to condemn the entire Polish nation for the acts of renegade troops or mobs, and believed the attacks were not premeditated or the result of a preconceived plan. He noted, however, that "It is believed that these excesses were the result of a widespread anti-Semitic prejudice aggravated by the belief that the Jewish inhabitants were politically hostile to the Polish State."[17]

Jadwin and Johnson submitted their report separately from Morgenthau's. As described by one historian[who?] Morgenthau emphasized that Jews had been deliberately murdered based solely on the fact that they were Jews, while Jadwin and Johnson concluded that the violence against Jews in Poland was largely rooted in Jewish separatism and commercial competition.[2]

Assessments of the mission's works varied, with supporters and critics alternately concluding that it had either debunked allegations of Polish anti-semitism or provided support for them. Hoover considered the mission as having done a "fine service," while others considered its findings to be a "whitewash" of Polish atrocities.[1]

The possibility of bias in the Morgenthau report has been discussed by some scholars. Andrzej Kapiszewski has written that the report was influeneced by U.S. foreign policy objectives at the time. Neal Pease wrote, "To protect Poland's international reputation against widespread, if exaggerated, accusations of mistreatment of her large Jewish minority, Washington dispatched an investigatory commission led by Henry Morgenthau, one of the most prominent American Jewish political figures. Morgenthau was selected for the job precisely because he was known to be sympathetic to Poland, and his report largely exculpated the Polish government, exactly as expected." [18] Some contemporary responses in the Jewish press accused Morgenthau and Samuel, the Jewish members of the commission, of having presented a "whitewash" of the massacres, and charged them with being guilty of treason.[19]


  1. ^ a b c d Mieczysław B. Biskupski, Piotr Stefan Wandycz. Ideology, Politics, and Diplomacy in East Central Europe. Boydell & Brewer, 2003, p.62
  2. ^ a b c Sonja Wentling. "The Engineer and the Shtadlanim: Herbert Hoover and American Jewish non-Zionists, 1917-28." American Jewish History 88, 3(September 2000): 377-406.
  3. ^ Henry Morgenthau, French Strother. All in a Life-time. Doubleday, Page and Company, 1922, p. 360. Original from the New York Public Library, digitized Jul 17, 2007>
  4. ^ Neal Pease. Poland, the United States, and the Stabilization of Europe, 1919-1933. Oxford University Press US, 1986. Page 9.
  5. ^ Neal Pease. "'This Troublesome Question': The United States and the 'Polish Pogroms' of 1918-1919." In: Mieczysław B. Biskupski, Piotr Stefan Wandycz. Ideology, Politics, and Diplomacy in East Central Europe. Boydell & Brewer, 2003, p.72
  6. ^ Neal Pease. Poland, the United States, and the Stabilization of Europe, 1919-1933. Oxford University Press US, 1986, p.8
  7. ^ Henry Morgenthau. The Jews in Poland And My Meetings with Paderewski, Pilsudski, and Dmowski. In: Walter Hines Page, Arthur Wilson Page. The World's Work: A History of Our Time. Doubleday, Page & Company, 1922.
  8. ^ Arthur Lehman Goodhart Poland and the Minority Races. G. Allen & Unwin ltd., 1920. Original from the University of Michigan, digitized Jun 7, 2007.
  9. ^ Henry Morgenthau III. Mostly Morgenthaus: A Family History. Ticknor & Fields, 1991.
  10. ^ Reproduced in: Henry Morgenthau, French Strother. All in a Life-time. Doubleday, Page and Company, 1922 Original from the New York Public Library, digitized Jul 17, 2007>
  11. ^ David Engel. Poles, Jews, and Historical Objectivity. Slavic Review, Vol. 46, No. 3/4 (Autumn - Winter, 1987), pp. 568-580. See also Mission of The United States to Poland, Henry Morgenthau, Sr. Report
  12. ^ a b c d e Andrzej Kapiszewski, Controversial Reports on the Situation of the Jews in Poland in the Aftermath of World War Studia Judaica 7: 2004 nr 2(14) s. 257-304 (pdf)
  13. ^ Norman Davies. "Ethnic Diversity in Twentieth Century Poland." In: Herbert Arthur Strauss. Hostages of Modernization: Studies on Modern Antisemitism, 1870-1933/39. Walter de Gruyter, 1993.
  14. ^ David Engel. "Lwów, 1918: The Transmutation of a Symbol and its Legacy in the Holocaust." In: Joshua D. Zimmerman, Contested Memories: Poles and Jews During the Holocaust and Its Aftermath, Rutgers University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-8135-3158-6, Google Print, p.33-34
  15. ^ Jacob Goldstein, Abraham Cahan, Jewish Socialists in the United States: The Cahan Debate, 1925-1926, Sussex Academic Press, 1998, ISBN 1-898723-98-2, Google Print, p.11
  16. ^ a b (English) Tadeusz Piotrowski (1997). Poland's Holocaust: Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide... McFarland & Company. pp. p. 41–42. ISBN 0-7864-0371-3. 
  17. ^ Quoted in: Andrzej Kapiszewski, Controversial Reports on the Situation of the Jews in Poland in the Aftermath of World War Studia Judaica 7: 2004 nr 2(14) s. 257-304 (pdf)
  18. ^ Neal Pease, Poland, the United States, and the Stabilization of Europe, 1919-1933, Oxford University Press, 1986, page 10
  19. ^ Norman Davies. Great Britain and the Polish Jews, 1918-20. Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 8, No. 2 (Apr., 1973), pp. 119-142.