cover image Morgenthau: Power, Privilege, and the Rise of an American Dynasty

Morgenthau: Power, Privilege, and the Rise of an American Dynasty

Andrew Meier. Random House, $42 (1,072p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6885-2

A Jewish family climbs the heights of American statesmanship in this sweeping group biography. Journalist Meier (The Lost Spy) profiles three scions of the Morgenthau family, dubbed “the Jewish Kennedys” for their pursuit of wealth and government office. Henry Morgenthau Sr. was a German Jewish immigrant to New York in the 1860s, a real estate speculator, and a Democratic Party megadonor; as ambassador to the Ottoman Empire during WWI, he organized opposition in the U.S. to the Turkish genocide of Armenians. His gentleman farmer son, Henry Jr., funded the New Deal and WWII as Franklin Roosevelt’s Treasury Secretary; he also battled antisemitic State Department officials to try to rescue Jewish refugees, and pushed a vengeful proposal to deindustrialize postwar Germany. His son Robert M. Morgenthau was Manhattan’s district attorney for 35 years, prosecuting many high-profile cases. Meier’s narrative mixes political drama—Robert was with Robert F. Kennedy when the latter learned of his brother’s assassination—with colorful family melodrama (Henry Sr. tried to have his eccentric father committed so he wouldn’t ruin Henry’s wedding). It’s also a vivid panorama of the New York that made the Morgenthaus: Robert’s career furnishes a string of true crime stories, including the notorious “Central Park jogger” rape case, that illustrate the city’s racial tensions, mob corruption, and white-collar thievery. The result is a fascinating family portrait on the grandest scale. Photos. Agent: Lynn Nesbit, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Oct.)