American news agency the Associated Press has admitted dealing with the Nazis during World War II, and that it fired or transferred Jewish employees at the behest of the regime in 1935.
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AP was confirming some of the allegations revealed in a May 2016 story by a German researcher and The Guardian, including that it employed photographers during the war who had worked for the Nazi propaganda machine. Some of them were even ardent supporters of the Nazi regime.
The agency also admitted to providing the Nazis with photographs that were used for propaganda purposes. AP also disseminated pictures sent it by the Nazi propaganda office, according to a probe by AP itself, “Covering Tyranny,” published Wednesday.
AP's probe was based on its own and other archive material, following the allegations in the Guardian article and after German historian Harriet Scharnberg first uncovered stains on the agency’s past (in German).
The agency says it “fulfilled its mission” of gathering news “forthrightly and as independently as possible,” while admitting there were things it could have done differently – for example, objecting to Nazi use of AP pictures in propaganda. It denies collaboration, and noted that by virtue of its actions, it managed to bring the world important news and pictures during the war.
It did admit that in 1935, at the Germans’ behest, it fired or transferred six employees whom the Nazis claimed were Jewish, saying it felt it best to remain in Germany during that critical period. It claims it helped all six resettle outside Germany and that all survived the Holocaust.
The AP probe also revealed that some of its employees held pro-Nazi views and “covered the German side of the war enthusiastically.” One of its photographers, Austrian-born Franz Roth – who traveled with the Waffen-SS to several fronts – was described as one such “ardent Nazi.”
After 1939, the Germans recruited AP photographers to serve its propaganda machine, the news agency confirmed. They would accompany German armies and cover the fighting. AP continued to pay their salaries as though they worked independently for it, though in practice they worked in service of the Nazis and the pictures were often given to other German media.
“AP management at the time believed their photography had important news value in spite of the restrictions caused by traveling with German forces or their personal views of the war,” the report stated.
AP also confirmed that in exchange for pictures it gave the Germans that were used in propaganda, it received photos approved by Joseph Goebbels’ Propaganda Ministry, and distributed the pictures itself to other agencies.
“Although it was known that the photos obtained from Germany had been approved by the Nazi Propaganda Ministry and had been passed by Nazi censors, the photos nevertheless provided important views of the war and occupation at a time when independent access was impossible,” AP wrote in its probe. The agency added that its captions made the German or Nazi origins of the photos clear.
Scharnberg had a less forgiving stance, saying the agency’s conduct was a serious stain on its history, and that the photographs played a key role in hiding the truth about the war the Germans were conducting.
The German interest and narrative dictated what events would be documented and photographed by AP, she said last year, when her own research was published.
For example, instead of receiving photographs of the pogrom in Lviv (now part of Ukraine), showing thousands of Jewish deaths, American newspapers only received pictures of victims of the Soviet police and Red Army war criminals.
AP insisted that despite these findings, the news agency played a key role in reporting on Hitler’s rise, the German preparations for war and spread of anti-Semitism, while testing the boundaries of what could be done, and what could not be done, under the Nazi regime’s nose.
“However, suggestions that AP at any point sought to help the Nazis or their heinous cause are simply wrong,” the agency wrote. It said that due in large part to its “aggressive reporting, the dangers of the Nazis’ ambitions for domination in Europe and their brutal treatment of its opponents were revealed to the wider world.”