Associated Press Cooperated With Nazis? AP Fights Explosive Claims

The Associated Press is fighting against claims that it cooperated with the Nazis and allowed Hitler’s government editorial control in exchange for preferential access.

The story was broken in an article by German historian Harriet Scharnberg, published in the academic journal Studies in Contemporary History. Using archival material unearthed by Scharnberg, the article claims that AP entered into formal collaboration with Nazi Germany in the 1930s, even supplying material directly produced by the Nazi propaganda ministry to U.S. newspapers.

In a subsequent piece by the Guardian on Wednesday, the new research alleged that AP was able to receive preferential treatment by agreeing to cooperate with the Nazi regime, noting that the Guardian itself was banned within a year of the Nazis’ rise to power in 1933, and that other Western publications were forced to close their doors for employing Jewish journalists.

“Associated Press, which has described itself as the ‘marine corps of journalism’ (‘always the first in and the last out’) was the only western news agency able to stay open in Hitler’s Germany, continuing to operate until the US entered the war in 1941. It thus found itself in the presumably profitable situation of being the prime channel for news reports and pictures out of the totalitarian state. In an article published in academic journal Studies in Contemporary History, historian Harriet Scharnberg shows that AP was only able to retain its access by entering into a mutually beneficial two-way cooperation with the Nazi regime.”

According to Scharnberg, the New York-based AP was able to stay in Germany by agreeing to obey by the Schriftleitergesetz(editor’s law), promising not to publish material “calculated to weaken the strength of the Reich abroad or at home.” In other words, coverage unfavorable to the Reich.

The accusations by Scharnberg that the AP was complicit in covering up Nazi brutality is certainly provocative, but according to the Guardian, the rabbit hole may go even deeper than that.

“This law required AP to hire reporters who also worked for the Nazi party’s propaganda division. One of the four photographers employed by the Associated Press in the 1930s, Franz Roth, was a member of the SS paramilitary unit’s propaganda division, whose photographs were personally chosen by Hitler.”

AP has since removed Roth’s pictures from its website since the publication of the Scharnberg piece. AP also allegedly allowed the Nazis to use photos from their archives in the party’s anti-Semitic propaganda.

“Publications illustrated with AP photographs include the bestselling SS brochure ‘Der Untermensch’ (‘The Sub-Human’) and the booklet ‘The Jews in the USA’, which aimed to demonstrate the decadence of Jewish Americans with a picture of New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia eating from a buffet with his hands.”

Perhaps most chillingly of all, AP also heeded a personal order by Hitler in 1941 to only provide American press with photos of Soviet troops in the Ukrainian town of Lviv, and none of the Nazi mass killings and pogroms against Jews when they invaded the city.

“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 told the Guardian.

Paul Colford, a spokesman for the AP who spoke to CNN, denied the charges and conclusions in Scharnberg’s article, saying it “describes both individuals and their activities before and during the war that were unknown to AP.”

“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,” Colford added.

This news comes just a few weeks before Associated Press’s 170th anniversary in May of this year.

[Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images]

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