Hitler’s nightmare: Henry Morganthau’s plan

Henry Morgenthau was Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Treasury from 1934. To Hitler he epitomised ‘World Jewry’. He was Jewish Wall Street royalty, a close friend and colleague of Roosevelt. He rescued the US economy by ‘Keynesian’ financing of the New Deal. Once Morgenthau became aware of the Holocaust, in 1943, he devised an idiosyncratic plan for post-war Germany. Morgenthau saw the treaties following the first world war were disastrous because Germany’s industry had remained intact. He planned to emasculate Germany. The Morgenthau Plan would dismember Germany whilst removing all their industry and creating an agricultural country. This was debated at the highest levels and rejected.

The 1919 post-war settlement was predicated on Germany paying reparations. The suppressed premise being Germany’s resumption as economic leader of Europe. Through financial manoeuvres this was feasible until it was engulfed by the Great Depression. Germany lost American financial support and catastrophic levels of unemployment began. One consequence was extremist politics: Communism and Naziism. This culminated in Hitler being appointed Chancellor in 1933.

Hitler’s Anti-Semitic rhetoric included World Jewry by which he meant Wall Street and the city of London. Roosevelt became president in 1933 and a year later appointed Morgenthau secretary for the Treasury. This pivotal role financed the New Deal and Keynesian economics. Despite being an ultra conservative financier he authorised deficit financing for Roosevelt’s New Deal programmes. Although these programmes weren’t an unmitigated success they boosted morale as the public felt Roosevelt was ‘on their side’.

Morgenthau was an old friend and confident of Roosevelt and used to winning his point of view. As a consequence his plan trampled over departmental niceties. His proposal for the dismemberment of Germany and its utter destruction as an industrial force couldn’t have been more contentious.

The post-war dismemberment of Germany

Worse: the Nazis claimed World Jewry intended to starve them and destroy Germany altogether, which to a certain extent the plan did. (see Addendum) Germany was in an existential situation and Goebbels made the very most of it as a propaganda issue.

Elements of the Morgenthau plan survived Roosevelt’s death and the ascendency of president Truman. In truth none of the Big Three, Britain, the Soviet Union or the USA envisaged ripping out the heart of Europe. So the plan remained an interesting abandoned issue. The map of Europe could have been changed permanently along with world politics.

Addendum: A summary of Morgenthau’s Plan

Demilitarization of Germany.: It should be the aim of the Allied Forces to accomplish the complete demilitarization of Germany in the shortest possible period of time after surrender. This means completely disarming the German Army and people (including the removal or destruction of all war material), the total destruction of the whole German armament industry, and the removal or destruction of other key industries which are basic to military strength.

  1. Partitioning of Germany.:

    1. Poland should get that part of East Prussia which does not go to the USSR and the southern portion of Silesia as indicated on the attached map, (Appendix A)

    2. France should get the Saar and the adjacent territories bounded by the Rhine and the Moselle rivers.

    3. As indicated in part 3 an International zone should be created containing the Ruhr and the surrounding industrial areas.

    4. The remaining portion of Germany should be divided into two autonomous, independent states, (1) a South German state comprising Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden and some smaller areas and (2) a North German state comprising a large part of the old state of Prussia, Saxony, Thuringia and several smaller states.

    There shall be a custom union between the new South German state and Austria, which will be restored to her pre-1938 political borders.

  2. The Ruhr Area.: (The Ruhr, surrounding industrial areas, as shown on the attached map, including the Rhineland, the Kiel Canal, and all German territory north of the Kiel Canal.) Here lies the heart of German industrial power, the cauldron of wars. This area should not only be stripped of all presently existing industries but so weakened and controlled that it can not in the foreseeable future become an industrial area. The following steps will accomplish this:

    1. Within a short period, if possible not longer than 6 months after the cessation of hostilities, all industrial plants and equipment not destroyed by military action shall either be completely dismantled and removed from the area or completely destroyed. All equipment shall be removed from the mines and the mines shall be thoroughly wrecked.

      It is anticipated that the stripping of this area would be accomplished in three stages:

      1. The military forces immediately upon entry into the area shall destroy all plants and equipment which cannot be removed.

      2. Removal of plants and equipment by members of the United Nations as restitution and reparation (Paragraph 4).

      3. All plants and equipment not removed within a stated period of time, say 6 months, will be completely destroyed or reduced to scrap and allocated to the United Nations.

    2. All people within the area should be made to understand that this area will not again be allowed to become an industrial area. Accordingly, all people and their families within the area having special skills or technical training should be encouraged to migrate permanently from the area and should be as widely dispersed as possible.

    3. The area should be made an international zone to be governed by an international security organization to be established by the United Nations. In governing the area the international organization should be guided by policies designed to further the above stated objectives.

    4. Restitution and Reparation. : Reparations, in the form of recurrent payments and deliveries, should not be demanded. Restitution and reparation shall be effected by the transfer of existing German resources and territories, e.g.

      1. by restitution of property looted by the Germans in territories occupied by them;

      2. by transfer of German territory and German private rights in industrial property situated in such territory to invaded countries and the international organization under the program of partition;

      3. by the removal and distribution among devastated countries of industrial plants and equipment situated within the International Zone and the North and South German states delimited in the section on partition;

      4. by forced German labor outside Germany; and

      5. by confiscation of all German assets of any character whatsoever outside of Germany.



For a simple summary of financial manoeuvres see https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zccfj6f/revision/3

For the Nazi commodification of Hungarian Jews see https://oedeboyz.com/2016/01/22/a-flexible-psychopath-adolf-eichmann-and-the-hungarian-jews-1944/

For a quick review of Morgenthau see Schwartz, Don. The History Teacher, vol. 48, no. 4, 2015, pp. 782–783., http://www.jstor.org/stable/24810460. Accessed 22 Apr. 2020.

For the context of Morgenthau’s radical proposal see Chase, John L. “The Development of the Morgenthau Plan Through the Quebec Conference.” The Journal of Politics, vol. 16, no. 2, 1954, pp. 324–359. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2126031. Accessed 22 Apr. 2020.

Conference of President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill and Premier Stalin at Tehran.” The American Journal of International Law, vol. 38, no. 1, 1944, pp. 9–10. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2214039. Accessed 15 Apr. 2020.

This entry was posted in Economics, Finance, History, Politics, War and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.