AP fights claims it worked with the Nazis

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The Associated Press is fighting back claims that it cooperated with the Nazis and even ceded editorial control to Hitler's regime in exchange for access.

Those explosive claims were detailed in the academic journal "Studies in Contemporary History" by the historian Harriet Scharnberg. They were amplified in a story published Wednesday by The Guardian.

Paul Colford, a spokesman for the AP, rejected the notion that the news service acted as a collaborator with the Nazis. Scharnberg's article, Colford said, "describes both individuals and their activities before and during the war that were unknown to AP."

"An accurate characterization is that the AP and other foreign news organizations were subjected to intense pressure from the Nazi regime from the year of Hitler's coming to power in 1932 until the AP's expulsion from Germany in 1941," Colford added.

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While other western news outlets were booted out of Germany following the Nazis' rise to power, the AP stayed after agreeing not to publish material unfavorable to the Third Reich. Scharnberg said that's when the news service entered a period of unseemly cooperation with Hitler's regime.

According to the historian, the AP suppressed evidence of Nazi brutality and allowed its photos to be used in the party's anti-Semitic propaganda.

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In one particularly chilling example highlighted by Scharnberg, the AP heeded Hitler's personal orders in 1941 to provide the American press only with photos depicting victims of Soviet troops in the Ukrainian town of Lviv. The AP provided no photos of the pogroms against Jews in Lviv that followed the Nazis' invasion of the city, according to Scharnberg.

"Instead of printing pictures of the days-long Lviv pogroms with its thousands of Jewish victims, the American press was only supplied with photographs showing the victims of the Soviet police and 'brute' Red Army war criminals," Scharnberg told the Guardian.

"To that extent it is fair to say that these pictures played their part in disguising the true character of the war led by the Germans," said the historian. "Which events were made visible and which remained invisible in AP's supply of pictures followed German interests and the German narrative of the war."

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In a statement published on the AP's website, Colford said that Scharnberg's research "concerns a German photo agency subsidiary of AP Britain that was created in 1931," which "became subject to the Nazi press-control law but continued to gather photo images inside Germany and later inside countries occupied by Germany."

The subsidiary, according to Colford, labeled photos that were controlled or censored by the Nazi regime when they were sent to U.S.-based members and customers of the AP.

The Guardian's story, written by Berlin bureau chief Philip Oltermann, placed Scharnberg's research in the context of the AP's relationship with "contemporary totalitarian regimes" -- specifically in North Korea, where the AP opened a bureau in 2012, a first for a western news agency.

Oltermann wrote that the AP's Pyongyang bureau ignored a number of stories on North Korea that were widely covered elsewhere, and he highlighted a leaked draft agreement showing that AP was receptive to letting the Korean Central News Agency pick a couple members from its "agitation and propaganda unit" to work in the bureau.

The AP downplayed the significance of the draft.

"It's unfortunate that the Guardian makes specious claims about AP's North Korea Operations, including its giving credence to a 'draft agreement' that we assured the reporter yesterday had no significance," Colford said. "AP does not submit to censorship. We do not run stories by the Korean Central News Agency or any government official before we publish them. At the same time, officials are free to grant or deny access or interviews."

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