Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr. — commonly
considered little more than Franklin Roosevelt’s yes-man — in fact led the
greatest financial undertaking in human history: he raised the $310 billion
($4.8 trillion in 2010 dollars) needed to overthrow the Third Reich. Battling
overwhelming challenges, this dyslexic college dropout raised 25 times the
money needed for the New Deal. He had to work with an isolationist, tax-wary
Congress, a State Department that leaned toward appeasement and a Federal
Reserve led by the impractical Marriner Eccles. And he had to toil under
Franklin Roosevelt, whose economic ignorance and hostility to business
jeopardized the industrial war effort.
More than just an economic or war story, this is the story
of one man’s struggle and awakening as he worried about his dying wife and his
sons fighting overseas. After the massacre of European Jewry sparked his own
rebirth as a Jew, Morgenthau oversaw the War Refugee Board, a massive
diplomatic operation that rescued 200,000 condemned people. Morgenthau capped
off his stunning wartime achievements by organizing the Bretton Woods
Conference, which established the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
This success created the hubris that led to his greatest failure – the Morgenthau
Plan, which would have de-industrialized Germany.