Bismarck, Otto v.
Kleist, Heinrich v.
Ossietzky, Carl v.
Schinkel, Karl Friedrich
b. Aug. 22, 1902, Berlin
original name BERTA HELENE AMALIE RIEFENSTAHL German motion-picture actress, producer,
photographer, and director who is best known for her documentary films of the 1930s
dramatizing the power and pageantry of the Nazi movement.
Riefenstahl studied painting and ballet in Berlin, and, from 1923 to 1926, she
appeared in dance programs throughout Europe. Beginning her motion-picture career
as an actress in "mountain films," a type of German film in which nature, especially the
mountain landscape, plays an important role, she eventually became a director in the
genre. In 1931 she formed a company, Leni Riefenstahl-Produktion, and the
following year wrote, directed, produced, and starred in Das blaue Licht (1932; The
With the support of the Nazi Party, she directed films that extolled the values of
physical beauty and Aryan superiority. They include ieg des Glaubens (1933;
Victory of Faith), a short subject commissioned by Adolf Hitler; Triumph des Willens
(1935; Triumph of the Will), an important documentary study of the 1934 Nazi Party
Convention at Nürnberg that emphasized the unity of the party, introduced the leaders
to the German people, and exhibited Nazi power to the world; and Olympische Spiele
(1938; Olympia), a two-part film, Fest der Völker (Festival of the Nations) and Fest
der Schönheit (Festival of Beauty), on the Olympic games of 1936 that was praised
for the effectiveness of its studio-created music and sound effects. Riefenstahl's films
were acclaimed for their rich musical scores, for the cinematic beauty of the scenes of
dawn, mountains, and rural German life, and for brilliant editing.
Because her films had aided the Nazi cause, she was blacklisted after World War II.
She returned to work in 1952, however, after being officially cleared of complicity in
Nazi war crimes, and completed Tiefland ("Lowland"), the production of which had
been interrupted by the war. Die Nuba (The Last of the Nuba), a book of her African
photographs, was published in 1973.
"Riefenstahl, Leni" Encyclopædia Britannica Online.