On Wednesday, Holocaust memorial groups slammed the Associated Press over new allegations that the wire service collaborated with the Third Reich.
In a damning revelation, The Guardian (UK) reports, “The Associated Press news agency entered a formal cooperation with the Hitler regime in the 1930s, supplying American newspapers with material directly produced and selected by the Nazi propaganda ministry, archive material unearthed by a German historian has revealed.”
The Guardian explains:
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.
The New York-based agency ceded control of its output by signing up to the so-called Schriftleitergesetz (editor’s law), promising not to publish any material “calculated to weaken the strength of the Reich abroad or at home”.
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 removed Roth’s pictures from its website since Scharnberg published her findings, though thumbnails remain viewable due to “software issues”.
This all sounds so familiar, given how far today’s news agencies are willing to go to gain access to demagogues.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the AP’s apparent collaboration is the extent of information-sharing. The wire service allowed Hitler’s Nazi regime to use its archival photos in order to publish anti-Semitic propaganda materials. This agitprop was used to further demonize the Jews of Europe and ultimately augmented German sympathy for the Final Solution.
“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,” notes The Guardian.
Here’s how AP responded to the report:
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 ethical complications and extent of AP’s joint project with the Nazis are still unclear and may take time to parse out.