German historian claims Associated Press cooperated with the Nazis

A parade of SA troops passes Hitler in Nuremberg, Germany. Credit: Charles Russell Collection, NARA via Wikimedia Commons.

( A German historian has claimed that the Associated Press (AP) news agency cooperated with Hitler's government during the 1930s, supplying American newspapers with Nazi propaganda material. 

In an article published in the academic journal Studies in Contemporary History, historian Harriet Scharnberg used archival research to say that the AP was the only Western news agency allowed to operate in Germany during Hitler’s regime while other international media were banned, many due to the fact that they employed Jewish journalists.

Scharnberg revealed that the AP was able to continue operating in Germany during this time because it signed up to the Nazi Schriftleitergesetz (editor’s law), promising not to publish anything “calculated to weaken the strength of the Reich abroad or at home.” This also meant that the news agency had to hire reporters who also worked for the Nazi party’s propaganda division, such as one of the four photographers employed by the AP in the 1930s, Franz Roth.

For instance, after Nazi troops invaded the town of Lviv in western Ukraine in 1941 and carried out massacres against the city’s Jews as “revenge” for Soviet killings, “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.

Scharnberg's academic paper also described that the AP allowed the Nazi regime to use its photo archives for anti-Semitic propaganda literature, such as in the bestselling SS brochure “Der Untermensch” (“The Sub-Human”) and the booklet “The Jews in the USA.”

After Scharnberg published her findings, the AP removed Roth’s pictures from its website. “As we continue to research this matter, AP rejects any notion that it deliberately ‘collaborated’ with the Nazi regime," said an AP spokesperson, adding that AP reporters "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 spokesperson said.

In 2012, the AP was involved in a similar controversy for becoming the first Western news agency to open a new bureau in North Korea, raising questions about its ability to conduct neutral reporting from the totalitarian country.

Posted on March 30, 2016 .