Home Language & Literature The Age of Translation: Early 20th-century Concepts and Debates
Political influences from Britain
However, the potential influence and power promised to those who controlled the mass media not only occupied the minds of German politicians. In 1935, the British government set up the Ministry of Information (Balfour 53). This Ministry was not created primarily to exercise censorship, rather “its main function would be to present the national case at home and abroad” (ibid.). As many were suspicious of its true purpose, the Ministry struggled to fulfil these tasks. Moreover, “except for dispatches going abroad, submission to censorship was voluntary”
(Balfour 59). The competences of the Ministry remained limited and the system “was based on bluff, goodwill (for no editor wanted to help the Germans) and the realisation that, if broken down, a much more vexatious, compulsory scheme would have to be substituted” (Balfour 61). However, the British Official Secrets Act dating back to 1889 appears to have been a more effective tool to control the British press output. The revisions of the Act - introduced at several successive stages - were not only aimed at preventing the leaking of sensitive information; any action perpetrated to commit a felony, as defined by the Act, as well as the reception of information obtained as a result of a violation of the Act were to be punished (Green and Karolides 106-408). Unlike customary court cases, where the principle “in doubt, for the accused” applies, in the context of the Official Secrets Act it seemed as if the defendants had to prove their innocence. In September 1938, Crozier wrote a letter to Voigt and apologised because he had altered Voigt’s article to avoid giving away the origin of the information. “In the meantime I express my regret for having made you waste so much of your labour. The Official Secrets Act is a constant trial to us, but I know that you have it always carefully on your mind” (21/09/1938). In a similar vein, Crozier consulted Scott about the inclusion of information originating from an official document on the Munich crisis. The document apparently suggested that Chamberlain had urged the Czech government to surrender to German demands (07/11/1938). In view of the impact the territorial losses of Czechoslovakia had on European politics, the publication of this information could have entailed far-reaching consequences for Chamberlain and his party. These letters indicate that at least the Manchester Guardian exercised a certain degree of self-censorship to avoid potential repercussions by the government. Moreover, they also suggest that the Official Secrets Act affected the work of the journalists continuously and thus considerably.
However, not only governmental intervention but also Crozier’s personal political views led to the exclusion of certain topics. In October 1935, for instance, he informed Werth that his article, probably referring to the disagreement between France and the UK created through the Italo-Ethiopian War, could not be published as “bad blood would unnecessarily be created between the two governments”, between the UK and France (Crozier to Werth 31/10/1935). In contrast, he wrote to Voigt in the wake of the November Pogroms: “Do you agree with me that it will be a good thing to keep on writing about the Jews in Germany - not, I mean, so much about the whole question of this sort of prosecution, what it means and what can be done about it? It seems to me that it might help a sort of moral encirclement of the Nazis which must eventually have some corrosive influence even in Germany itself” (Crozier to Voigt 25/11/1938). Both examples demonstrate that Crazier was aware of the important and influential role the media played with regards to international politics and he carefully considered the consequences the translation and publication of information could have.
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