German Historian Alleges AP Cooperated With Nazis for Access

March 30, 2016

The Associated Press cooperated with the Hitler regime to preserve its media access to the Nazis during the 1930s, a German historian detailed in a new study.

Harriet Scharnberg wrote in a German academic journal that the news agency provided American newspapers with propaganda created and selected by the Nazis under a formal cooperation with the dictatorship.

The Guardian reported Wednesday:

Associated Press…was the only western news agency able to stay open in Hitler’s Germany, continuing to operate until the U.S. 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.

The agency entered into an agreement called Schriftleitergesetz, or editor’s law, vowing to refrain from printing anything that was "calculated to weaken the strength of the Reich abroad or at home," according to Scharnberg.

Under the cooperation, AP was mandated to hire reporters from the Nazi propaganda ministry. Scharnberg wrote that the agency also gave Nazis access to its photo archives to produce antisemitic propaganda, which The Guardian noted included the infamous SS brochure, "Der Untermensch," or "The Sub-Human."

AP denied cooperating with the Nazi regime in a statement released Monday.

"AP rejects the suggestion that it collaborated with the Nazi regime at any time. Rather, the AP was subjected to pressure from the Nazi regime from the period of Hitler’s coming to power in 1933 until the AP’s expulsion from Germany in 1941. AP staff resisted the pressure while doing its best to gather accurate, vital and objective news for the world in a dark and dangerous time," the statement read.

Scharnberg, a historian at Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg in Germany, wrote that while AP’s access provided the west with a rare glimpse into the Hitler regime, its cooperation enabled the Nazis to "portray a war of extermination as a conventional war."

Her study was published in the academic journal Studies in Contemporary History. The Guardian reported that its findings raise "difficult questions" about AP’s relationships with totalitarian regimes today.