Berlin: Associated Press German Picture Service, 1940. Photograph. This is an original, wartime press photo of Winston Churchill (1874-1965) originating from the Associated Press German Picture Service, an American news agency on German soil that symbolized the imperfect struggle to maintain free press operations in Nazi Germany. The photo measures 5.25 x 7.25 inches (13.4 x 18.5 cm) and is in very good condition. The glossy photo surface is clean and bright with no tears or folds and light scratches visible only under raking light. The verso features a typed three-line German caption pasted on, which translated reads "During a tour of inspection by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, where he visited the defense facilities of the British Isle in the northwest". A stamp in pink ink reads “The Associated Press | Berlin SW 68, Zimmerstrasse 68 | Telef. 17 0124-0125” along with four further lines in German that translate to “Publication may only be made with the permission and appointment of Associated Press A. P. Photos along with the delivery of voucher copies”.
This undated photo was taken in the summer of 1940, shortly after Churchill became Prime Minister. When Churchill became Prime Minister on 10 May, 1940, the war for Britain was not so much a struggle for victory as a struggle to survive. From the fall of France to the formal entry of the United States, the outcome of the Second World War was not a forgone conclusion and Britain’s peril was quite real. Churchill’s first six months in office would see, among other near-calamities, the Battle of the Atlantic, the fall of France, evacuation at Dunkirk, and the Battle of Britain. The threat of Nazi invasion of Britain was an imminent and pressing in concern in 1940, accounting for this image of Churchill inspecting local defense preparedness.
This photo’s verso bears the stamp of The Associated Press German Picture Service. The Associated Press (AP) established AP’s German photo service as a subsidiary in 1931. After 1933, the Nazis quickly brought the AP German photo service under the supervision of the Propaganda Ministry. Compromises were inevitable, including re-writing of AP captions and firing of Jewish AP employees in Germany. Nonetheless, “The AP made the difficult decision to comply because it believed it was critical for AP to remain in Germany and gather news and photos during this crucial period”. Berlin-based American AP reporters and German photographers covered the first part of the Second World War from 1939-1941 from the German side of the battle lines.
When the U.S. entered the war in December 1941, AP’s American staff members in Germany were arrested and interned for five months, while the AP German picture service was seized by the Nazi government and put under control of a Waffen SS photographer, Helmut Laux. Nonetheless, AP still wanted to make images of Nazi-controlled areas of Europe available to the American public, so with approval from the US Government a deal was brokered. Through a third party in neutral Portugal and Switzerland Bureau Laux and AP exchanged photos. Of course the captions for AP images that appeared in German publication were rewritten by Nazi propagandists, but the German photos obtained by AP in exchange helped AP to cover the war as comprehensively as possible and thereby give the U.S. public “a much fuller picture of the war than could have been obtained otherwise”. (AP). Item #004845