Leni Riefenstahl Denazification Trial

(Transcript of Leni Riefenstahl)

What was The denazification process?:

A Systematic eradication of National Socialist thought from political,
economic as well as intellectual and cultural life Leni’s trial Two focal questions to be answered in Leni’s trial:

1. Did she contribute to the Nazi party through her work as a director through propaganda?

2. Was she a Nazi sympathiser? Leni’s Films did contribute to the wellbeing of the Nazi party:

Leni produced 3 films on direct commission from Adolf Hitler, all with the purpose of promoting the Nazi Party:

  1. Victory of Faith
  2. Day of Freedom
  3. Triumph of the Will, this film in particular is crucial for this trial

The main issue that must be explored in this film is…. Propaganda

Did she contribute to the Nazi party through her work as a director?


(3) Main problems of the film for Leni:

1. It was a direct commission from Adolf Hitler

2. It portrays the greatness of the new German nation under the leadership of Hitler. It also highlights elements of Nazi ideology such as the unimportance of the individual

3. It blatantly glorifies Hitler through manipulation of film techniques and the opening scene of Hitler flying in through the clouds as a mystic like, superior figure TRIUMPH OF THE WILL It is a documentary of the 1934 Nuremburg rally and it is the main source of incriminating evidence against Leni.

Victory of Faith and Day of Freedom

Victory of Faith, 1933, Impact of Triumph of the Will

Recieved critical acclaim:

Rojer Ebert of the ‘Chicago Sun Times” writes

“By general consent one of the best documentaries ever made”

It won:

  1. National film prize of Germany 1935
  2. Venice Biennale Gold medal 1936
  3. Exposition Internationale des Arts et des Techniques (Paris), Grand Prize, 1937.

Leni’s defense:

claims it is a documentary rather than a propaganda film

She states:

It reflects the truth that was then in 1934, history. It is therefore a documentary. Not a propaganda film.

Oh! I know very well what propaganda is. That consists of recreating events in order to illustrate a thesis, or, in the face of certain events, to let one thing go in order to accentuate another

It was produced as a PROMOTION of the Nazis at Nuremberg

NOT JUST A DOCUMENTATION Was she a Nazi sympathizer?


Her personal relationships with the Nazi elite:

  • enjoyed a personal relationship with Adolf Hitler
  • Adolf Hitler held her in high esteem
  • She held him in incredibly high esteem:

To me Hitler is the greatest man who ever lived……..Hitler’s followers are not spotless. Only he is pure.”

This personal relationship is shown by:

  • Her attendance at social outings with hitler, such as numerous dinner parties at the house of Joseph Goebbels.
  • Numerous invitations received by Leni to visit Adolf Hitler at his residence . One such visit took place on the 30th March 1944 at Hitler’s Berghof.

Leni argues:

The Konskie incident September 1939:

Leni was at the Polish front at Konskie to capture war footage

Whilst she was there, there was a massacre of some 30 polish prisoners.

Naivety States that her idealized image of Hitler fell apart, “Far too late”.

This defense is easily thwarted Still naive and uninformed Leni??

Use of Extras in Tiefland:

In November 1940, 65 Gypsy prisoners drawn from Marzhan concentration camp in Saxburg Maxlan were used.

A surviving camp document provides evidence of these 65 being ordered onto the set.

Val Williams of ‘The independent’:

Triumph of the Will seduced many wise men and women, persuaded them to admire rather than to despise, and undoubtedly won the Nazis friends and allies all over the world.”

Leni was undeniably a sympathizer:

The close personal relationship she had with the Nazi elite and in particular Hitler, cannot be justified by Leni’s Naivety or her claims of being misinformed.

Her exploitation of the situation in Tiefland further thwarts this argument


By American denazification distinctions

she was a category 3:

‘A less incriminated Nazi’

(Susan Sontag also disagrees with Leni’s received Leniency;)

“the verdict:

No political activity in support of the Nazi regime which would warrant punishment.” More important: whether or not Riefenstahl deserved a prison sentence, it was not her “acquaintance” with the Nazi leadership but her activities as a leading propagandist for the Third Reich that were at issue.

Individuals were trialed, and it was determined whether they were co-operators or contributors to the nazis, and if so to what extent of co operation or contribution’

by Pat Burfitt on 21 June 2011.