A German historian has revealed that the Associated Press, an American news agency that is one of the world's largest, collaborated with the Nazi regime in the 1930s, British newspaper The Guardian reported on Wednesday.
In an article published in the academic journal Studies in Contemporary History, historian Harriet Scharnberg claims that AP provided American newspapers with information produced and selected by the Nazi Propaganda Ministry.
According to Scharnberg, following the Nazi Party's rise to power in 1933, the American news agency was able to continue operating in Germany thanks to a mutual cooperation agreement it made with Adolf Hitler's regime.
Meanwhile, foreign media like The Guardian and other American and British news agency stopped operating in the Third Reich, some after being targeted for employing Jewish journalists.
This made AP the world's main source of information out of Nazi Germany. In some cases, the German historian said, the news agency aided the regime to cover up some of the crimes and atrocities it committed.
The agreement the Associated Press signed with the Nazi regime was based on Schriftleitergesetz (editor’s law), which determines the news agency cannot publish any information that is "calculated to weaken the strength of the Reich abroad or at home."
Under the editor's law, AP also had to employ reporters working for the Nazi propaganda unit. For example, one of the agency's photographers in the 1930s was Franz Roth, a member of the SS propaganda unit, whose photos were personally selected by Hitler.
AP also allowed the Nazi regime to use its photo archive to produce its virulent anti-Semitic propaganda, which portrayed the Jews as "subhuman."
In one instance, the Nazis used an AP photo of New York's Jewish mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in their propaganda booklet "Jews in the USA."
Did AP help cover up Nazi crimes?
The publication of the German historian's article, just as the Associated Press celebrates 170 years since its establishment, raises serious questions about the news agency's surrender of journalistic principles to Nazi Germany and its relations with totalitarian regimes in those days.
According to Scharnberg, photos that were taken by Roth of bodies inside prisons in the city of Lviv in Ukraine were handpicked by Hitler and distributed to the American press by AP.
"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.
The Associated Press said in response that the article by the German historian "describes both individuals and their activities before and during the war that were unknown to AP." The news agency said it was examining documents and its archives to "further our understanding of the period."
An AP spokesperson also told The Guardian that the news agency "rejects any notion that it deliberately 'collaborated' with the Nazi regime. 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."