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US Government Rescue Efforts

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Treasury Department Report to President Roosevelt

Morgenthau Report
US Holocaust Memorial Museum

The featured memo was written by US Treasury Department officials in January 1944. They used the information contained in this memo to convince President Franklin D. Roosevelt to end the US State Department's responsibilites for issues related to refugees from Nazi persecution. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr.—a close friend of President Roosevelt's and the only Jewish Cabinet secretary—signed the final copy of this report (and is the "I" throughout the text), even though it was written by members of his staff. 

The report describes the State Department's long delays in issuing a "license"—permission to send money or aid into areas controlled by Nazi Germany or its collaborators—to a representative of the World Jewish Congress who wanted to aid Jews in France and Romania.1 While investigating these delays, Treasury officials discovered that in February 1943, the State Department had ordered US diplomats in Switzerland to stop forwarding information about the Nazi regime's genocidal mass murder campaigns.2 After explaining the complicated proof of the State Department’s obstruction on pages 4-7—and the ways in which State Department officials tried to cover their tracks—the Treasury Department’s report asked, "Is it anything less than an attempted suppression of information requested by this Government concerning the murder of Jews by Hitler?"

The featured document is a draft of the report that includes two copies of the final page, each ending the memo in a different way. The final paragraphs show that the Treasury staff debated either merely warning Roosevelt about a possible scandal within his administration or warning him that failing to rescue European Jews would mean sharing responsibility for their deaths.

On January 16, 1944, Treasury staff presented this "Personal Report to the President" to Roosevelt—who did not read it or keep his copy—and successfully convinced him to issue an executive order establishing the War Refugee Board (WRB). For the first time, the US government had an official policy of rescuing and providing relief for Jews and other minorities being persecuted by Nazi Germany. Although the War Refugee Board worked with State Department officials, most of the WRB's staff were Treasury Department officials—including some of the people who drafted this report.

The original title of the report, not produced here, was damning: "Report to the Secretary on the Acquiescence of this Government in the Murder of the Jews." The delay is discussed in a detailed list beginning on the second page.

To learn more about how the State Department intervened to suppress news of the Nazi regime's genocidal plans, see the related Experiencing History item, Undelivered Telegram from Gerhart Riegner to Rabbi Stephen Wise

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Accession Number 2014.115.1
Date Created
January 8, 1944
Author / Creator
Henry Morgenthau, Jr.
Washington, DC
Document Type Report
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