Leni and Hitler

Hitler and Leni celebrating the success of "Triumph of the Will" 1936

Like much of Europe throughout the 1930s, the German people were living in economic despair, Leni Refenstahl was inspired by Adolf Hitler.  She found the Fuhrer charismatic and lauded his efforts to build national socialism, by her own words “unaware of his ultimate intentions”.

Leni and Hitler

When Hitler came into her life, Riefenstahl was already an accomplished actress and director.  Although Riefenstahl denied all accusations, there were rumors about a relationship between herself and Hitler.  Riefenstahl held that her relationship with him was purely professional, where she was too bound up in her ‘art’ to take any interest in political matters and quite uninterested in bothering to read about electoral campaigns (Webb 2008: 25).

Hitler’s feelings for Riefenstahl were equally enthusiastic. In May 1932, Riefenstahl met Hitler for the first time. The would-be artist Hitler had admired The Blue Light, and was interested in meeting an acclaimed artist who already had an international reputation. After his election as chancellor in January 1933, Hitler immediately gave Riefenstahl the job of filming the annual NSDAP conference in Nuremberg.

At the time, Hitler was keen to improve the public image of the NSDAP. During the social polarisation under the Weimar Republic, Hitler’s shock troops had terrorised the streets and gained a reputation for their brutality. In the “new Germany” of 1933, Hitler moved immediately against the workers’ movement. All political parties and unions were banned, the press was censored, and a brutal dictatorship reigned.

Now Hitler sought to portray himself as statesman and invent a historical continuity for his party based on a completely distorted portrayal of German history. For her part, Riefenstahl was prepared to assist. No doubt, there was an element of personal infatuation on her part with the figure of Hitler, but such infatuation was bound up with definite political conceptions. In one newspaper interview she declared: “To me Hitler is the greatest man who ever lived. He is really faultless, so simple yet so filled with manly power… He is really beautiful, he is wise. Radiance streams from him. All the great men of Germany—Friedrich, Nietzsche, Bismarck—have all had faults. Hitler’s followers are not spotless. Only he is pure.” [2] .  (Source: Leni Riefenstahl- propagandist for the Third Reich from Socialist perspective).

 

When Art and Politics Collide

Leni Riefenstahl was granted the dream of every filmmaker, an unlimited budget, to photograph the annual Nazi Party rally of 1934.  His charisma, passion and undivided love for Germany provided Riefenstahl the material to create a documentary known as “Triumph of the Will”.  A inestimable propaganda tool in building the myth of Hitler-as-savior.

Joseph Goebbels was appointed the key figure in the Nazi Party as the Propaganda Minister in 1933.  He knew the power of controlling what people thought.

(Source Lewis, 2003)

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