Henry Morgenthau III, Grandson of Ambassador Morgenthau and Lifelong Supporter of US Affirmation of Armenian Genocide, Passes Away at 101
WASHINGTON, DC – The Armenian Assembly of America and Armenian National Institute mourn the loss of a longtime friend of the Armenian people, Henry Morgenthau III, who dedicated himself to honoring the memory of his grandfather, Ambassador Henry Morgenthau. He passed away on July 11.
In countless 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.
The Armenian National Institute and the Armenian Assembly of America shared the distinction of organizing Mr. Morgenthau’s 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 of Henry from the time of his residence in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Mrs. Kitty Dukakis, wife of the former governor of the state of Massachusetts and a board member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The Morgenthau delegation was received by the president of Armenia, Robert Kocharian, met with several other officials including U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Michael Lemmon, and was the guest of honor at the naming of a Yerevan city school in honor of 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 U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia Harry Gilmore and U.S. Ambassador John Evans who publicly called for official U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
A friend also of the Armenian National Institute (ANI), Henry Morgenthau III encouraged the organization with symbolic gifts of $1915 and joined with supporters and Armenian Ambassador to the U.S. Tatoul Markarian in the opening of the ANI Library, to which he contributed his grandfather’s library.
Henry Morgenthau III was an author and television producer. His family history, Mostly Morgenthaus, won the 1992 National Jewish Book Council prize for best memoir. He was a fellow at the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University. Morgenthau’s shows on Boston’s public television station, WGBH, won Peabody, Emmy, UPI, EFLA and Flaherty Film Festival awards. Morgenthau also updated his grandfather’s memoir, Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story, with a lengthy postscript about the Ambassador’s life in the 2003 edition of the book published by Wayne State University Press.
Henry Morgenthau III’s brother, Robert Morgenthau, also a vocal advocate for Armenian Genocide recognition, served as District Attorney for New York County in Manhattan. Their father, Henry Morgenthau II, was Secretary of the Treasury under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“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.
“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.
Carolyn added: “Henry was exemplary in carrying on Ambassador Morgenthau’s commitment to genocide recognition and prevention. We all honor him for his total resolve to relentlessly stand up and speak out against injustices of the past. He used his voice to deepen people’s recognition of the importance of acknowledging the truth in history and thereby using this truth to prevent the recurrence of atrocities.”
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.
By John M. Evans,
Former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia (2004-06)
We Americans are understandably focused on the multiple and interlocking tragedies that have taken place in the last month from Louisiana to Minnesota and most notably in Dallas. But half a world away a human tragedy of a different sort has been unfolding in the unrecognized Armenian-populated enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, which in Soviet times enjoyed an autonomous status, but, as the USSR was collapsing, voted for independence and fought a terrible war with post-Soviet Azerbaijan that claimed some 30,000 dead on both sides. A fragile cease-fire was signed in 1994 under Russian sponsorship, but the “frozen” conflict has in recent years seen more violations of the Line of Contact, and more victims.
The “four-day war” initiated by Azerbaijan on April 2, 2016 (no close observer of the conflict lays the blame anywhere else) was the largest escalation of military conflict between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh since the cease-fire was signed in 1994. Over ninety Armenians were killed, and more than 120, including civilians and children, were wounded. As the Armenian Ambassador to the United States said to me, on a per capita basis, this was equivalent to the U.S. losing 10,000 of its citizens. Thousands of people from the affected villages, mostly children, women and the elderly, were evacuated to the comparative safety of Stepanakert or neighboring communities, or to Armenia proper. I visited Karabakh in late June with Dr. Garo Armen of the Children of Armenia Fund in order to help him determine what COAF might do to ease the suffering of civilians that resulted from the fighting.
The Azerbaijani shelling, much of which was unleashed after the initial attack had already faltered, was most destructive to the border communities of Talish, Madaghis, Mardakert, Hadrout and Martuni. Talish has been entirely abandoned because of the risk of shelling; in fact, further shelling did occur there on June 30 when Azeri soldiers attacked three farmers in the fields. Many families, some of them grieving over their losses, are now internally displaced, still terrified from what they experienced and fearful of the future. Five hotels in Stepanakert were commandeered to house families and individuals who had no other place to go.
Immediately after the cessation of hostilities, the Yerevan office of the Children of Armenia Fund deployed two teams to Karabakh to assess the situation and, in some cases, to provide immediate assistance. The local authorities had attempted to mobilize limited resources to address the most pressing needs, and NGOs and some governmental structures from Armenia also joined in the effort to assist; however, what COAF discovered was that, while some of the emergency needs of the IDPs were partially met, psychological support for the affected people was sorely needed and there was no local capacity to address this issue.
While some efforts were made to address the needs of soldiers with psychosomatic conditions, the majority of the IDPs in the five hotels and elsewhere exhibited signs of trauma, behaving as “ghetto groups,” lost between a terrifying past and an uncertain future, closed inside their shells and praying for God’s help. Children who were enrolled to attend nearby schools feared to venture out to “life-threatening places where shooting and shelling cause death and injuries.” Images of the elderly Talish couple whose ears were cut off by the attackers, of the Yezidi soldier who was decapitated, and of other soldiers tortured and/or mutilated have not helped calm these people down. Some of the atrocities committed by the Azeris clearly were in the category of war crimes and played on the Armenians’ well-founded fear of genocide.
While we Americans have much to do to “fix our own country”, one of the responsibilities of great-power status is to prevent the world from becoming a jungle. Together with Russia and France, the United States has been attempting to mediate the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute through the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. In my view and that of many others, it is high time for the Karabakh authorities, unrecognized as they may be under international law, to be brought into the peace process. The Armenians of Karabakh, or, as they call it, Artsakh, are there to stay and deserve to live in peace in their towns, cities and mountains.
John Evans was recalled from his post as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia in 2006 for publicly breaking with the Bush Administration over the Armenian Genocide. He recently published Truth Held Hostage: America and the Armenian Genocide–What Then? What Now? London: Gomidas Institute, 2016.
This article originally appeared in the California Courier and is reproduced with the expressed written consent of the author.