The Associated Press concedes it allowed Adolf Hitler to censor a news report about his plan for a Jewish genocide, hired a paid Nazi propaganda officer as a photographer, and obeyed Third Reich orders to fire six Jewish employees in Germany.
But the news agency rejects suggestions it was a Nazi collaborator, as alleged in an academic article published in Germany last year.
“We recognize that AP should have done some things differently during this period,” AP said in a 161-page report issued Wednesday. “However, suggestions that AP at any point sought to help the Nazis or their heinous cause are simply wrong,” the AP report said.
The AP report, “Covering Tyranny, the AP and Nazi Germany: 1933-1945,” was commissioned by the news agency to address an article by German historian Harriet Scharnberg.
Scharnberg’s article, “The A and P of Propaganda, The Associated Press and Nazi Photojournalism,” was published in 2016 in the German academic journal “Studies in Contemporary History.”
The AP report confirmed many of Schranberg’s findings, but disputed others.
The wire service report revealed that AP permitted Hitler to censor a key news report, which would have revealed Hitler’s plan to exterminate the Jews as early as 1932.
AP Bureau Chief Louis Lochner, who was awarded the 1939 Pulitzer Prize for his dispatches from Berlin, said in a 1958 speech that he transcribed an “utterance concerning the Jewish question which Adolf Hitler made in the course of an interview I had with him [in 1932].”
But Hitler’s statement “was never published because Hitler had made it a condition for receiving me that I would submit the text for his clearance,” the AP report said. As Lochner explained, “The burden of his pontification [in 1932] was that the Jew must be eliminated from the German scene because, as he put it, ‘Wir koennen als Volk ihn nicht verdauen’ (‘We cannot as a people digest him’).”
The AP study also confirmed Scharnberg’s finding that the news agency hired photographer Franz Roth, “an ardent Nazi” and member of the SS propaganda division whose photographs were personally chosen by Hitler and was paid by both AP and the Riech.
The AP hired Roth because the Nazi regime required AP to hire staffers from the Nazi Party’s propaganda division and to avoid publishing any material “calculated to weaken the strength of the Reich abroad or at home,” Scharnberg reported. Roth was paid by the Nazi regime at the same time he was paid by AP as a photographer.
AP removed Roth’s pictures from its website after Scharnberg’s article was published, although thumbnail versions of the photos are still available, according to the Guardian.
Scharnberg, a historian at Halle’s Martin Luther University, asserted in her article that AP’s cooperation with the Hitler regime allowed the Nazis to “portray a war of extermination as a conventional war” while hiding their plans for Jewish genocide.
The historian said that in June 1941, Hilter personally selected photos taken by Nazi propagandist Roth of dead bodies inside a prison in Lviv, Poland, and provided AP captions saying the killings were by Soviet troops. Hitler also personally selected Roth’s AP photographs of menacing-looking captured Soviet soldiers to stir up anti-Soviet anger abroad, she said.
But AP failed to distribute any photos of “revenge” pogroms carried out by German soldiers against the city’s Jewish population, Scharnberg said.
AP confirmed Scharnberg’s account: “Roth photographed heaps of bodies in the courtyard and hallway of a Soviet prison in Lviv and the pictures were widely published in Germany at Hitler’s express command as part of a campaign to expose the crimes of Bolshevism and portray Stalin’s government as barbaric,” the AP report said.
But AP said it has no evidence that the agency — or any other photo service in Germany — had taken any photos of the victims of the Jewish pogrom that may have been censored by Hitler.
The New York-based wire service also conceded in its report that it enabled de facto censorship by Hitler by distributing only photos of the Nazi leader taken Hitler’s personal photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann.
The AP report also recounted how Harold L. Ickes, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, wrote to an AP official in 1941 to complain that Lochner had repeated false German propaganda in several of his news reports.
“I realize under what difficulties the American newspaper correspondents must necessarily work in Germany at this time,” Ickes wrote. “But I sometimes wonder whether we would not be better off without dispatches from that country if the alternative is to be fed daily doses of arsenical propaganda.” The AP wrote Ickes that it stood behind Lochner.
Another fact disclosed by the AP report is that the agency fired or reassigned six Jewish employees on orders from the Nazis in 1935. One of those fired was photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, who emigrated to the U.S. and became “one of the great photographers of the 20th century,” AP said in its report.
The wire service said that it “made the difficult decision to comply” with the Nazi command to fire its Jewish staff “because it believed it was critical for AP to remain in Germany and gather news and photos during this crucial period.”
“There is no suggestion that . . . Eisenstaedt bore any ill will towards AP over his departure from Germany,” AP said.
Before his firing, Eisenstaedt photographed the Nazi Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels glaring at Eisenstaedt moments after Goebbels discovered the photographer was Jewish.
After arriving in the U.S. Eisenstaedt photographed the famous V-J Day kiss in Times Square marking the end of World War II, as well as famous black-and-white portraits of Ernest Hemingway, Marilyn Monroe, Pablo Picasso and Alfred Einstein.