A new report shows that the Associated Press News Agency voluntarily collaborated with Nazi Germany by submitting to the regime’s restrictive rulings on the freedom of the press and by providing the Nazis with images from its photo archives to be used in its anti-Semitic and anti-Western propaganda machine.
When Hitler’s National Socialists came into power in 1933, all international news agencies, except for the US-based AP News Agency, were forced to leave Germany. The AP continued to report from Nazi Germany until the US joined the war in 1941.
According to German historian Harriet Schnarnberg, the AP was allowed to stay in Nazi Germany because it signed a deal with the Nazis.
The AP lost control over its copy by allowing itself to be subjected to the Schriftleitergesetz (editor’s law), agreeing not to print any material “calculated to weaken the strength of the Reich abroad or at home,” Scharnberg wrote in an article published in the academic journal Studies in Contemporary History.
The UK-based newspaper, The Guardian, was the first to report on Scharnberg’s research.
The Guardian writes that according to the paper, the Nazi’s so-called editor’s law forced AP employees to help write material for the Nazi’s propaganda division. One of the four photographers that were working for the AP in the 1930s was Franz Roth, a man who was also a member of the Nazi’s paramilitary unit’s propaganda division. Hitler himself handpicked Roth’s photos.
According to Scharnberg, the AP’s photographs were in many of the Nazi’s propaganda publications. Scharnberg explained that the AP provided most of the images in a pamphlet called “Jews in the US” and that in a different publication entitled “The Subhuman,” the AP provided the second-largest number of photographs.
It is possible to say that the AP’s agreement with the Nazis allowed the West a “peek into a repressive society that may otherwise have been entirely hidden from view,” the Guardian writes. However, the deal also allowed the Nazis to cover up their war crimes. The cooperation with the prestigious AP News Agency allowed Hitler to portray his “war of extermination as a conventional war,” Scharnberg told the Guardian.
“Instead of printing pictures of the days-long Lviv pogroms with its thousands of Jewish victims, the American press was only supplied with photographs showing the victims of the Soviet police and ‘brute’ Red Army war criminals,” Scharnberg, a historian at Halle’s Martin Luther University, told the paper, citing one example of the agency’s work helping the Nazis.
“To that extent it is fair to say that these pictures played their part in disguising the true character of the war led by the Germans,” Scharnberg added. “Which events were made visible and which remained invisible in AP’s supply of pictures followed German interests and the German narrative of the war.”
The AP, in response to the Guadian’s report, said that it would look into this matter, but rejected the idea that it deliberately worked with the Nazis.
“An accurate characterization is that the AP and other foreign news organizations were subjected to intense pressure from the Nazi regime from the year of Hitler’s coming to power in 1932 until the AP’s expulsion from Germany in 1941. AP management resisted the pressure while working to gather accurate, vital and objective news in a dark and dangerous time,” the agency stated.
The study also questions the AP’s current relationship with totalitarian regimes. According to the Guardian, one such example of this is how people have been questioning the neutrality of the AP bureau in North Korea.