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The Religious Affiliation of Director
Leni Riefenstahl


In her autobiography, Riefenstahl describes a time when she was particularly bothered by religious matters, her mind weighed down by contemplation of many horrors in the world, such as violence and abuse. She had a spiritual awakening, however, and came to appreciate that God is the source of all good things. She states that that daily prayer of gratitude became an important source of strength for her.

From: Jadwiga Biskupska (Cornell University), "Hitler & Triumph of the Will: A Nazi Religion in the Catholic Style" in Undergraduate Quarterly, September/November 2004, page 147 (URL: http://www.undergradquarterly.com/EJournal/2004Q2/Biskupska.pdf):

...despite the fact that Riefenstahl was also a "certified" Lutheran [citing source: Rolf Giesen, Nazi Propaganda Films; London: McFarland and Company, Inc. Publishers, 2003; page 21], the film is a testament to, and a most perfect expression of, the re-emergence of Catholic sacramental tradition and imagery (and the presentation of the Christian faith) as a new "Nazified" form of religion. Since the beginning, Catholicism and Nazism had an uncomfortable coexistence. They jarred long before Riefenstahl began filming Hitler's rally in the summer of 1934... The Concordat, along with many other more famous agreements and treaties signed by the Fuehrer, was quickly violated, and the Church was ineffective in protecting Catholics from all manner of religious and cultural harassment. Alfred Rosenberg, the closest Nazism as an ideology ever came to having a philosopher, was consistently and virulently anti-Catholic... Hitler [and] Joseph Goebbels... rejected their Catholic faith and recognized that they had excommunicated themselves...
Although Riefenstahl's name is most frequently associated with Nazism, the filmmaker maintained that she was not a Nazi. From: Naomi Pfefferman, "Protesters attack Jodie Foster's Leni Riefenstahl project" in L.A. Jewish Journal, 2003 (URL: http://www.jewishsf.com/bk001201/etjodie.shtml):
She remains best known for her brilliant Third Reich propaganda films: Her documentary "Olympia," shot during the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, earned her a spot on Time magazine's cover and is considered one of the best sports documentaries ever made. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels himself awarded Riefenstahl the German National Film Prize for "Triumph of the Will," which depicts Hitler as God-like and is widely credited for selling National Socialism to the masses. Goebbels lauded Riefenstahl's womanly charms in his diaries.

The filmmaker, who has insisted "I was not a Nazi, I was an artist," was, according to the Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, interned by the Allies for three years after World War II but later cleared of any wrongdoing... Riefenstahl has insisted that she was naive about Hitler, that she's "ashamed" she didn't notice the persecution of the Jews, and that she never wanted to make "Triumph of the Will."

From: Frank Brady, Citizen Welles: A Biography of Orson Welles, Charles Scribner's Sons: New York, NY (1989), page 165:
Just days before the broadcast of The Ward of the Worlds, German filmmake Leni Riefenstahl arrived in New York City to handle the promotion and distribution of her classic film of the 1936 Olympics. She captured headlines in the American press. No, she was emphatically not Jewish, she insisted. She also coyly denied that she was Hitler's mistress: "I get film orders from Hitler, that's all." The public was synical, suspicious, and resentful that the film was being given critical acceptance. During the Riefenstahl visit came the news that Rome's fascist newspaper, Il Tevere, ordered all Italians to boycott the films of Charlie Chaplin and the brothers Marx ans Ritz. The sourpuss reason? Their humor was not Aryan.

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Webpage created 1 June 2005. Last modified 1 June 2005.
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