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Remembering Leni Riefenstahl:
August 22, 1902–September 8, 2003

768 words

German translation here

Helene Bertha Amalie “Leni” Riefenstahl was born on this day in Berlin in 1902. She died in Pöcking, Bavaria, on September 8, 2003, just after her 101st birthday. She was a highly accomplished dancer, actress, photographer, and film director. 

Even her most jaundiced critics admit that Leni Riefenstahl is the greatest female filmmaker of all time and/or the greatest documentary filmmaker of all time. But this is faint praise, since both fields are rather small.

In truth, Riefenstahl is one of history’s greatest film directors, period, because of her strong aesthetic sense and countless technical innovations, which account for her immense and enduring influence.

Her status as a director, moreover, rests on a very small body of work: two feature films, Das Blaue Licht (The Blue Light, 1934) and Tiefland (Lowlands, completed 1944, released 1954), and two documentaries: Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will, 1934) and Olympia (1938), released in two parts: Fest der Völker (Festival of Nations) and Fest der Schönheit (Festival of Beauty).

In addition, Riefenstahl made three other documentaries. Der Sieg des Glaubens (Victory of Faith, 1933, 64 minutes) was a documentary of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party’s 1933 Nuremberg Rally, which was withdrawn after the 1934 purge of Ernst Röhm, who featured prominently in the movie. The other two documentaries were relatively short: Tag der Freiheit: Unsere Wehrmacht (Day of Freedom: Our Armed Forces, 1935, 28 minutes), and Impressionen unter Wasser (Impressions Under Water, 2002, 45 minutes — hailed by one wag as “the world’s most beautiful screensaver”). These documentaries, however, have been seldom seen and have had little influence on Riefestahl’s reputation.

The fact that Riefenstahl’s stature as a filmmaker rests on only four films was not due to lack of effort on her part. After the Second World War, Riefenstahl tried repeatedly to launch new film projects, all of which came to naught, for one reason or another. But there is no question that an artist of Leni Riefenstahl’s talent would have made dozens of films in the 58 years she lived after World War II, if she had not been Adolf Hitler’s favorite director and if the Western movie business and media in general had not been dominated by Jews. The throttling of a talent this great is one of the aesthetic crimes of the 20th century.

It is a reminder that Jewish cultural hegemony is maintained not merely by promoting decadent artists, regardless of their talent, but by suppressing healthy ones, regardless of their talent. It is also a reminder that all other values of the Left-wing coalition — feminism, gay rights, environmentalism, etc. — are always subordinated when they conflict with the overriding Jewish agenda of degrading and destroying the white race, especially those connected in any way with its most self-conscious and militant defenders so far.

If you wish to begin exploring the life and work of Leni Riefenstahl, I recommend that you start with her own works:

Riefenstahl also acts in the following classic films directed by Arnold Fanck:

Do not miss Derek Hawthorne’s extensive analyses of each film, linked below.

Riefenstahl also appears extensively in Ray Müller’s 1994 documentary The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl. The director includes candid footage, shot when Riefenstahl did not think she was being filmed. His intention was to make her look bad, but in truth she comes off as 100 times the director Müller is. It is required watching, despite the inevitable axe-grinding.

I also recommend the following articles on this website:

Finally, I wish to recommend several books on Riefenstahl:

  • Leni Riefenstahl: Five Lives. A Biography in Pictures (a magnificent coffee-table picture book)
  • Steven Bach, Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl (a tendentious but informative biography by an American Jew)
  • David B. Hinton, The Films of Leni Riefenstahl (informative and mostly fair-minded)
  • Rainer Rother, Leni Riefenstahl: The Seduction of Genius (informative but tendentious, useful as critique of her autobiography)
  • Jürgen Trimborn, Leni Riefenstahl: A Life (an informative but tendentious biography by a self-hating German)


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  1. Sandy
    Posted August 22, 2018 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    And the feminists still haven’t picked up on her. Not to mention the female test pilot in that ancient war that the men acknowledged as one of the best. Two real heroines that the modern feminist can’t accept. Too advanced, I guess.

    • Axis Sally
      Posted August 22, 2018 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      You mean Hanna Reitsch, of course. Indeed.

      • Walter
        Posted August 22, 2018 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

        Axis Sally:
        Melitta von Stauffenberg was another aviatrix and test pilot during these years. If I remember correctly, she was testing the Ju 87 (or Stuka). Quite a feat to hurl in a dive bomber towards the earth. She died on April 8, 1945, after being shot down by an American airplane.
        M.v. Stauffenberg was the second woman to become Flight Captain.
        Indeed, why are the feminists so shy about women who are truly outstanding and not just wannabe copies of men, but women of accomplishment on the basis of being women?
        Perhaps only a folkish-national worldview allows for such women the opportunity for individualism and freedom of accomplishment by proving their prowess?

  2. Ty
    Posted August 22, 2018 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    She is beautiful in that photo.

  3. E
    Posted August 22, 2018 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    an artist of Leni Riefenstahl’s talent would have made dozens of films in the 58 years she lived after World War II

    Triumph and Olympia are great pieces of cinema. She was an important filmmaker. But I don’t see any indication that she was capable of doing a lot more than what she actually did. She was extremely ungenerous when giving credit to her colleagues. And she left behind no great screenplays or storyboards. I think she achieved more or less everything that she was capable of.

    She also went to Africa, and made beautiful photos of the ugly and the primitive. People mistake the beauty of the pictures for the beauty of the subjects. Unforgivable.

    She had a relentless drive and a great eye for aesthetics, for which she should be highly valued. But she also completely lacked self-reflection and deeper insight into her art, which I think makes her a somewhat dubious asset to the cause.

  4. miguel79
    Posted August 23, 2018 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    I recently discovered that Robert Aickman – turns out he was already written about on this blog – remained a devotee of hers to the very end. That is held against him nowadays, modern weird fiction being almost 100% leftie affair.

  5. Lord Ursington XII
    Posted August 23, 2018 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Great article. It’s ironic that the greatest female director ever is neglected in our era of hysterical feminism simply because she made two great films for the 3rd Reich.

    One of Roger Ebert’s finest moments was when he refused to denounce Triumph of the Will and the Birth of a Nation because they’ve been described as racist propaganda.

    My acid test for determining the worth of a film critic is what he/she has written about these two films, which were not only technically influential, but also among the greatest aesthetic achievements of the 20th century.

    • leech
      Posted August 24, 2018 at 4:43 am | Permalink

      Never underestimate the hypocrisy and inconsistency of gender feminism. Strong, independent, successful women are to be valued only if they are right kind of strong, independent and successful.

  6. Posted August 24, 2018 at 1:24 am | Permalink
  7. Rex Dwight
    Posted August 24, 2018 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    I had the great privilege of meeting Leni at the Cinecon silent film conference in Los Angeles in late August, 1997…she spoke to the audience after a packed screening of “The Blue Light”. The thuggish Jewish Defense League goons had tried to shut down her appearance, but the organizers showed remarkable bravery in defying them…and protecting the frail Ms. R from their truly vile and cowardly attacks.

    The Media/Tribal outrage was cut blessedly short with the death of Princess Diana that weekend, which diverted all attention away from this remarkable woman’s unannounced appearance. Indeed, no other woman has played a greater and more pivotal role in the history of Film–as actress, writer, producer, editor and revolutionary director…nor similarly paid for the integrity of her vision with 70 years of vindictive Blacklisting.

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