Raoul Wallenberg and Henry Morgenthau, Diplomacy and Dignity

It consists of a sort of generalized concept that involves diplomats who have a warm reaction to arbitrariness, moving their figures on stages where human submission appears with incomparable evidence of having been rendered solely with the ”interests and politics of the state” in mind. Allow me to recall for their valid significance the figures of Raoul Wallenberg and Henry Morgenthau, the first a Swedish Ambassador in Nazi occupied Hungary, and the second the American Ambassador in Constantinople (Istanbul) during the Turkish massacre of the Armenians (1913-1916). A small ways into our inquiry we notice that the presumed criteria of excluding is transformed, in the case of both figures it becomes a commitment to life, denouncing atrocities that many prefer to forget and some wish to change.

Henry Morgenthau worked in Constantinople after the triumph of the Turkish Revolution of 1908 that once was firmly in power commenced the systematic extermination of the Armenian people, first appropriating their belongings and property. The project was carried out during the First World War. The fall of Aleppo into English hands permitted the discovery of documents that revealed the extent of the systematic and organizational extermination of the Armenians: ”the Prefect at Aleppo has already been notified of the Turkish government’s decision to completely exterminate the Armenian inhabitants of Turkey. Those that will oppose this order will not be able to remain with the administration. Total disregard for women, children and the infirm, for the tragic ones that might be used to further the means of extermination, without listening to your feelings of consciousness, it is necessary to put an end to their existence.” (Minister of the Interior Talaat, September 13, 1915)

Raoul Wallenberg decides to give up his comfortable life, travel to Budapest, Hungary in 1944 in order to confront the deportation process begun by Eichman, at a point when the war seemed surely lost by the Nazis, and begins a heroic task distributing ”visas for life”. With the opening of ”Swedish Houses”, locations throughout Budapest protected by the immunity of that neutral country, he helps rescue thousands of Jews from almost certain death.

Both are witnesses, but not indifferent.

It turns into a COMPROMISE to the inhumane barbarism that promotes, in an organized manner and with directives from the state, in its most perverse deformity, the complete destruction of human communities. When referring to the instigators of the Armenian massacre, Morgenthau points out in his memoirs: ”Most of them were atheists who held no respect for Islam or Christianity; for them the only motive was the state, cold and calculating.” (Henry Morgenthau, Memories, pg. 48, Publication of the Commission for the Armenian Cause in Latin America- Bs. As. 1975).

Morgenthau and Wallenberg fought against DEPORTATION. Regarding this method, the American ambassador exclaimed: ”This Deportation was a new concept…it had never occurred to the Turks to take them from their homes and to move them far, to the desert, how did this idea then come about? I have also mentioned that Admiral Usedom, expert Turkish Naval officer told me that the Germans suggested this. The important point to remember is that the idea of deporting people is exclusively German. One can see this looking at pan Germanic literature” (op.cit. pg. 81). He later cites in documental form the theoretical suggestions of Fredrich Naumann and connects those to the construction of the railroad to Baghdad by the Germans as a necessary tool to obtain an empire that would stretch from Hamburg to the Persian Gulf.

In ”Memories” Morgenthau cites an encounter with a representative of the German government to Turkey, recalling what he said to him, ”So go back to the German Embassy and tell Wagenheim to ask for my resignation without any further delay. If I must be a martyr, it should be for a good cause. The truth is, for me it would be an honor to be removed because I, a Jew, did everything possible to save thousands of Christian lives.” (op. cit. pg. 89).

Similarities and coincidences, between the defender of the Armenians and the hero of the Shoah. In short, the Righteous saving human dignity in spite of the nation’s silence, another strong accomplicef. This is all a great lesson for future generations.

* Dr. Raul Woscoff, Raoul Wallenberg Center Bahia Blanca, Buenos Aires Province Argentina