New Developments in Holocaust Studies and the Digital Humanities

Dr. Abby Gondek, Morgenthau Scholar-in-Residence, FDR Library, Hyde Park, NY

PhD Global and Socio-cultural Studies, Florida International University

MA African and African Diaspora Studies, FIU

MA Women’s Studies, SDSU

i-school (Library, Archival and Information Studies), University of British Columbia

November 20, 2019


Who was Henrietta Stein Klotz and why was she important to the American government’s effort to rescue Jews?
Henrietta was the woman who supervised the organizing and indexing of the Morgenthau Diaries, a collection which spans 12 years, and includes over 860 volumes. Mrs. Klotz compiled all of Morgenthau’s correspondence, memos, and transcripts of his conversations into bound volumes. Henrietta not only “organized” (a conclusion often made about women), she also directly impacted the stance and actions taken by the FDR administration through her relationship with Henry Morgenthau.

This brown bag lunch workshop provides an opportunity for students to learn about the digital resources available open access at the FDR library related to the U.S. government’s response to the Holocaust. Specifically, I talk about Henrietta S. Klotz, her role in the American government’s response to the Holocaust and the digital materials available at the FDR library related to her involvement. The presentation includes a discussion of how I use a database and network visualization tool (open access) called nodegoat. This brown bag lunch workshop creates a forum for students to share their ideas about the most important issues related to developing a digital database, and massive scale digitization of Holocaust-related documents (and the ethical issues involved). The FDR library is planning a conference for 2021 which will explore new developments in Holocaust Studies and the digital humanities. What are the up and coming issues in the digital humanities and Holocaust Studies that should be included in this conference?


Slide 2 from EHRI presentation: description of Morgenthau Diaries
Overview: What are the Morgenthau Diaries? Who was Henry Morgenthau? Where can these resources be found?
Slide 3 from EHRI presentation. Photograph of the Third Meeting of the War Refugee Board from USHMM, and brief historical biography of HMJ
Who was Henry Morgenthau Jr.?

According to an undated document (the author is also unnamed) found within the Henrietta Klotz file in the Morgenthau Family Papers at United States Holocaust Memorial Museum or USHMM (Collection number 2015.255.1, Box 32, File 11), after Morgenthau was forced to resign in 1945, he struggled to work with businesses in NY because of his high standards (from his time directing Treasury). He could not advocate the public policies he wanted to without revealing information that would prove detrimental to the ongoing war effort (undated document, page 1). HMJ contacted Henrietta daily and “begged her” to come back to New York to work with him (she had remained in D.C. and was working in a lower-ranking position at Treasury). Henrietta finally agreed to move to New York but only under the condition that Morgenthau would work in “public service.” She proceeded to organize meetings with Henry Montor, Meyer Weisgal, William Rosenwald, Edward Warburg, and Rose Halpern, through which Morgenthau would be offered the chairmanship of United Jewish Appeal (page 2).

Though her obituary (in the New York Times) makes it seem as though Morgenthau got this position on his own and then asked Henrietta to be his assistant, from this undated document in the Morgenthau Family Papers (Box 32, File 11), it seems that Henrietta organized the position for HMJ. This undated document also indicates that subsequently, Henrietta and Morgenthau traveled together both nationally and internationally (especially to Israel) on behalf of United Jewish Appeal and eventually launched the Israel Bond Program in Israel which had originated in the Treasury department (page 2). 

Slide 4 EHRI presentation: citation of sources
In addition to these sources, I utilized an interview that Henry Morgenthau III (HMJ’s son) conducted with Henrietta Klotz, in New York, Sept. 19, 1978. This interview can be found in the Morgenthau Family Papers at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Collection number 2015.255.1, Box 32, File 11 (Henrietta Klotz). This resource was sent to me digitally by the USHMM.

Locating the Resource

Slide 5, EHRI presentation, how to find the MD
How do you locate this open access resource? Next I will explain how to find the Diaries homepage, Series 1 and 3 and then I will talk about the importance of Henrietta Klotz.
Slide 6, EHRI, How to find the MD using Franklin
Franklin enables searching across the FDR library’s digitized collections. From our website: “Franklin connects you to more than 700,000 pages of archival documents, 2,500 historical photographs, and hundreds of archival finding aids and collection descriptions.”
Slide 7, EHRI, Series 1 and 3, Who organized and compiled the diaries and index?
Note, that according to Henry Morgenthau III in his family history, Mostly Morgenthaus (1991), though “the task of organizing the material was carried out under the vigilant eye of Henrietta Klotz” it was an experienced librarian named Isabella Diamond who worked full-time to actually organize and index the diaries (p. 429, see footnote). Diamond got this job from Gabrielle Elliot Forbush, a friend of Elinor Morgenthau (HMJ’s wife). It was Gabrielle Forbush who had first connected Henrietta with the Morgenthau family (Henrietta Klotz interview with Henry Morgenthau III, p. 4).

Henrietta Stein Klotz

Slide 8, EHRI presentation, From Series 3: Index to the Morgenthau Diaries, sample card
This is a sample index card from Series 3 of the Morgenthau Diaries. Henrietta supervised the organization of the diaries, while Isabella Diamond indexed them. This image emphasizes the organization system for one index card in Series 3 focused on Jewish Refugees. On the top right is the volume number and next to each topic/document is a page number within that volume. These index cards can be used to identify the relevant scanned volumes. The first document on this card is about the plight of Jewish children from France, from August 26, 1943. The index cards have been scanned in batches in alphabetical order (by subject). This particular index card comes from a pdf that covers “PWA-Refugees.” A link to this pdf.
Slide 9, EHRI presentation, HS Klotz background
Additional sources for this information:
Herman Klotz, Henrietta’s husband, to Henry Morgenthau III, October 16, 1985
Henry Morgenthau Jr. to Henrietta Klotz, August 5, 1945
(both are from the Henry Morgenthau Papers at USHMM)
A link to the New York Times obituary for Henrietta Klotz.

“I would like you, Herman and Elinor [Henrietta’s husband and daughter] to know how really important I consider your work as my assistant was. I think I can best describe it as the ‘Watchdog of the Secretary of the Treasury.’”

Henry Morgenthau Jr. to Henrietta, August 5, 1945 (page 6), after his tenure as Secretary of the Treasury was forcibly ended

HMJ stated: “during the hundreds of conferences that you sat at my side” Henrietta’s recommendations were “always sincere and of the best”; in fact, he even explained “Sometimes [your advice] was so good that it hurt” (page 7). 

He then wrote to Klotz, “whatever credit I deserve” for helping to save Jewish refugees, “I want to share it equally with you.” (pages 8-9). He especially emphasized her influence in “Jewish affairs” where she was “particularly understanding and helpful”; in fact, he felt that she “made a real contribution towards winning the war” (page 10).

Slide 10, EHRI presentation, photograph Henrietta S. Klotz with HMJ, 1935
In Henrietta’s interview with Henry Morgenthau III (HMIII) on Sept. 19, 1978, she described how Elinor Morgenthau (HMJ’s wife) began to react towards Henrietta. “He would come home and he’d say Oh, Mrs. Klotz did something wonderful or Mrs. Klotz did this… I never heard it but I assumed that. And you know, after a while your mother got tired of hearing it. She didn’t like it. I felt it” (p. 15). Henrietta also exclaimed to HMIII: “I adored your mother. I had a great respect for her.” Intriguingly this part of the conversation directly followed Henry’s statement that his father “was very close to you and depended [on you]…” Henrietta affirmed that this was true. Henry then stated “He was as close to you as he was to any human being” (14-15). I interpreted this to mean that Henry III felt that his father was closer to Henrietta than he was to anyone else. The image above can be found here:

A specific digital resource re: henrietta

Transcripts of meetings labeled “Jewish evacuation” demonstrate that Henrietta was part of the staff closest to Morgenthau who influenced his decisions regarding what actions to take to rescue Jews in Europe. She laughed at HMJ’s jokes and complimented him. She used her voice to give weight to arguments she believed in, to convince Morgenthau to take actions she felt were necessary to help the Jews in Europe.

p. 89 of MD Vol. 688II
December 18, 1943, a “Jewish evacuation” meeting, from Morgenthau Diaries Volume 688 II, p. 89. This was the day that the Riegner license was finally issued to the World Jewish Congress. Gerhart Riegner was the World Jewish Congress representative in Switzerland. He was the author of a famous cable in August 1942, informing Rabbi Stephen S. Wise of the Nazi intention to exterminate European Jewry (Erbelding, 2018, pp. 19-22).  From March-December of 1943, the State department had delayed the issue of a license to finance Gerhart Riegner’s plan for relief efforts of Jews from France and Romania, including the evacuation of children from France to Spain and Switzerland (Erbelding, 2018, pp. 27-44).

A few days earlier on December 15, 1943, John G. Winant (US Ambassador to the UK) sent a cable (#8717) to Cordell Hull, the Secretary of State. Winant stated that the Foreign Office (in the UK) was rejecting the Treasury’s proposal for a license to be issued for the rescue of Jews from France and Romania.

“The Foreign Office are concerned with the difficulties of disposing of any considerable number of Jews should they be rescued from enemy occupied territory”

Winant to Hull, Cable 8717, Morgenthau Diaries or MD, Vol. 688II, p. 95

Winant explained that the Foreign Office found it “impossible to deal with anything like the number of 70,000 refugees” who would be rescued through this “Riegner Plan” (MD, Vol. 688II, p. 96). 

The December 18, 1943 meeting was in response to this refusal to issue the license. Morgenthau’s staff initially wanted him to go directly to FDR, while Morgenthau felt he should see Cordell Hull first so that he could tell the President that he had first discussed this with Hull (p. 85). Randolph Paul (a tax expert, and signatory of many memos to HMJ regarding the Riegner license) argued that if HMJ were to go to Hull, it would not be as the Secretary of the Treasury, but “in an individual capacity” since this was a “broad international issue” (p. 86). HMJ insisted that he could not be Secretary of the Treasury one minute and “a private citizen” the next, but John Pehle (who became the Director of the War Refugee Board) and Henrietta Klotz disagreed. 

Mr. Pehle: I think you can. 

Mrs. Klotz: Yes, you can.

MD Vol. 688 II, p. 86-87

HMJ believed that he could present his argument as Secretary of the Treasury “as a question of treating minority races” (p. 87). He continued, “Just because I am a Jew, why shouldn’t I look after the Jews, or the Catholics, or the Armenians” (p. 87). HMJ’s statement seems related to the fact that his father, Henry Morgenthau Sr., was involved in the attempt to rescue Armenians impacted by the genocide in 1915.

HMJ wondered if he shouldn’t bring Judge Rosenman (FDR’s speech writer and advisor and head of the American Jewish Committee) along with him. Randolph Paul advised him not to, since Rosenman was “hands off” on this sort of issue. After Ansel Luxford (also legal counsel at Treasury) and Randolph Paul suggested that HMJ take another Jew, Herbert Lehman, the Governor of New York and Morgenthau’s uncle by marriage, HMJ expressed concern with the appearance of a “Jewish delegation” and preferred to go just representing the Treasury department. It is at this point in the conversation that Henrietta emphasized that Morgenthau was uniquely positioned to convince Hull (or FDR) of the necessity of taking immediate measures to save Jews.

Mrs. Klotz: Mr. Morgenthau, nobody would do – none of these people you mentioned, when they are put on the spot, will do what you will do (p. 89). 

Morgenthau Diaries, Vol. 688 II

Nodegoat- data & NetWork Visualization

nodegoat visualization of Henrietta and HMJ, slide 28 from EHRI
Nodegoat network visualization of the connections between HMJ and Henrietta S. Klotz: includes institutions, people, disciplines/occupations, and relationship types/roles. Nodegoat is a project of Lab1100. Note that Henrietta was also highly involved in the Treasury Department and Bretton Woods Conference.

suggestions & questions

Based upon courses you have taken and projects you have completed, what are your suggestions regarding the development of digital databases and planning massive digitization of governmental and Holocaust related documents?

Our plan is to digitize on the item level, create transcripts and high resolution images of each document we digitize, and tag items for easy search. For my own purposes, tags or key words relating to person, organization, location (city, country), date, topic and themes are the most necessary.

Based on what you have heard in this presentation or your previous experience with trauma-related archives, what are the important ethical issues which should be considered when conducting this type of massive digitization and database of publicly accessible archives?

What are some of the newest issues you see developing in the digital humanities and/or Holocaust studies?

Any additional questions?

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