The Associated Press Engaged in Self-Censorship and Fired its German Jewish Staff to Placate the Nazis
The Associated Press (AP) was formed in May of 1846 by five New York City newspapers, to pool their resources and share the costs of covering the Mexican-American War. The cooperative venture proved a success, and the AP grew and expanded over the years, as other media outlets joined. Today, the AP is owned by its member newspapers and TV and radio stations, who contribute stories to the AP pool and use material written by AP’s staff journalists. It has generally been a paragon of good journalism, earning 52 Pulitzer Prizes since the award was established in 1917. However, a significant deviation from good journalism occurred during the Hitler years, when the AP collaborated with Nazi authorities to facilitate its reporting from Germany.
When Hitler & Co. came to power in 1933, they began exerting pressure on international news organizations operating in the Third Reich to conform to Nazi standards. One such standard was the Editor’s Law, enacted by the new regime to strictly limit what newspapers were allowed to publish. It also restricted the profession of journalism to Aryans, and mandated that Jews be removed from newsrooms.
Foreign journalists working in Germany thus found themselves being called upon to collect and send out news while being hosted by a government that wanted nothing to do with independent and objective journalism. Most international news organization refused to comply with such conditions, and withdrew from Germany rather than sacrifice their journalistic integrity and common decency.
The AP opted to stick around, and to placate the Nazi authorities, it fired all of its local Jewish staff. It also engaged in self-censorship and started adjusting its news reporting in order to keep the Nazis sweet. Among those adjustments was the downplaying of the daily discrimination endured by Jews in the Third Reich, and by the end of 1933, the AP was refusing to publish images depicting such discrimination. It worked. By 1935, most international news organizations of the day, such as Wide World Photos and Keystone, had been kicked out of Germany by the Nazi authorities, but the AP was one of the few still allowed to operate in the country.
After America joined the war in December of 1941, AP’s Berlin office was closed, and its American staffers were arrested and interned, before getting swapped in a prisoner exchange. However, in order to continue to obtain photographs from Nazi-occupied Europe, the AP made arrangements with news agencies in neutral countries to receive photos for the Third Reich, in exchange for furnishing the Germans with AP photos. The AP images provided to Germany appeared in Nazi propaganda, some were altered, and nearly all their captions were changed to conform to the official Nazi viewpoint.