Washington (AFP) - The Associated Press on Wednesday defended its operations in Germany in the run-up to World War II after a researcher uncovered what was claimed to be evidence of collaboration with the Nazi regime.
The US news organization responded to a paper in the German-language journal Studies in Contemporary History claiming it supplied American newspapers with material selected by the Nazi propaganda ministry, and in turn allowed it to use AP images for anti-Semitic propaganda.
"AP rejects the suggestion that it collaborated with the Nazi regime at any time," said a statement from agency spokesman Paul Colford.
"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."
Colford added however that the AP is now "reviewing documents and other files in and beyond AP corporate archives, in the US and Europe, to further our understanding of the period."
Researcher Harriet Scharnberg, citing documents and interviews, said she found evidence of more cooperation from the AP than previously disclosed.
She noted that the Nazi regime gained control over the German subsidiary of AP in 1935 as other news organizations left the country.
By agreeing to a 1934 German law governing the press, the AP "ceded considerable influence over the production of its news photos to the propaganda ministry," the researcher wrote.
The Guardian newspaper, which first reported on Scharnberg's research, said the agreement enabled the US agency to keep its Berlin bureau open after most other international news organizations departed.
AP said it had shared a large amount of material from its archives with the researcher, but that she used materials from other sources as well.
The agency defended its reporting from Germany in the period leading up to the war.
"AP news reporting in the 1930s helped to warn the world of the Nazi menace," the statement said.
"AP's Berlin bureau chief, Louis P. Lochner, won the 1939 Pulitzer Prize for his dispatches from Berlin about the Nazi regime. Earlier, Lochner also resisted anti-Semitic pressure to fire AP's Jewish employees and when that failed he arranged for them to become employed by AP outside of Germany, likely saving their lives."
Colford said much of Scharnberg's research concerned a German photo agency subsidiary of AP Britain that was created in 1931, and which in 1935 became subject to the Nazi press-control law.
US newspapers were supplied through the subsidiary with images taken in Nazi Germany -- including ones from the government or government-controlled sources that were clearly labeled as such, he said.
"Images of that time from Germany had legitimate news value as editors and the public needed to learn more about the Nazis," Colford said.
AP "did not engage in direct publication and until Ms. Scharnberg's research had no knowledge of any accusation that material may have been directly produced and selected by Nazi propaganda ministries," he added.
When Germany declared war on the United States and expelled all foreign news organizations in 1941, "AP lost control over its subsidiary and therefore the use of its photos," Colford noted in response to the claim it allowed its archives to be used for propaganda.