Riefenstahl, Berta Hélène Amalie “Leni”, born 22-08-1902, in Wedding, Berlin, was christened Helene Bertha Amalie. She was born into a prosperous family. Her father owned a successful heating and ventilation company and he wanted her to follow him into the world of business. However, her mother believed that Leni’s future was in show business. In 1918, when she was 16, she started dance and ballet classes at the Grimm-Reiter Dance School in Berlin, where she quickly became a star pupil. Riefenstahl gained a reputation on Berlin’s dance circuit and she quickly moved into films. In one of her first films, SOS Eisberg in 1933,
the former flying ace, Ernst Udet a stuntman and he joined the Nazi Party afterwards and became a Generaloberst under Hermann Goering (did you know). Leni saw her fame spread to countries outside of Germany. Riefenstahl produced and directed her own work called Das Blaue Licht (1932), co-written by Carl Mayer, he died age 49, on 01-07-1944, in London and Béla Balázs, he died age 64, on 17-05-1940, in Budapest. This film won the Silver Medal at the Venice Film Festival. The film attracted the attention of Hitler (see Alois Hitler), who believed she epitomized the perfect German female. Riefenstahl heard candidate Adolf Hitler (did you know) speak at a rally in 1932 and was mesmerized by his talent as a public speaker. Describing the experience in her memoir, Riefenstahl wrote: “I had an almost apocalyptic vision that I was never able to forget. It seemed as if the Earth’s surface were spreading out in front of me, like a hemisphere that suddenly splits apart in the middle, spewing out an enormous jet of water, so powerful that it touched the sky and shook the earth”. According to the Daily Express of 24-04-1934, Leni Riefenstahl had read Mein Kampf during the making of her film The Blue Light. This newspaper article quotes her as having commented, “The book made a tremendous impression on me. I became a confirmed National Socialist after reading the first page. I felt a man who could write such a book would undoubtedly lead Germany. I felt very happy that such a man had come”. She wrote to Hitler requesting a meeting. After meeting with Adolf Hitler (see Hitler parents) she was offered the opportunity to direct Sieg des Glaubens , an hour-long feature film about the fifth Nazi Party rally at Nuremberg in 1933. Riefenstahl agreed to direct the movie after returning from filming a movie in Greenland. Hitler (see Hitler Paula) was able to convince her to film Triumph of the Will instead, on the condition that she not be required to make further films for the party. She also told Hitler she wanted the freedom to act again: “I would not be able to go on living if I had to give up acting”. The resulting chronicle of the Nuremberg Rally, Triumph des Willens (named by Hitler), was generally recognized as a masterful, epic, innovative work of documentary film making. Her film makers were Walter Frentz and Hans Ertl
, he died old age 92 on 23-10-2000.
Triumph of the Will became a rousing success in Germany. However, it was widely banned in America as a propaganda film for the Nazi Party, made Riefenstahl the first female film director to achieve international recognition. In 1944, Hermann Goering and Goebbels made a now infamous list with “irreplaceable artists” called the Gottbegnadeten with people such as Arno Breker, Richard Strauss he died age 85 on 08-09-1949, Johann Heesters, Heinz Rühmann, Zarah Leander and Lenie Riefenstahl deemed crucial for Nazi culture. In interviews for the 1993 film The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl. Riefenstahl adamantly denied any deliberate attempt to create pro-Nazi propaganda and said she was disgusted that Triumph of the Will was used in such a way. In 1936, Hitler (see Did you know) invited Riefenstahl to film the Olympic Games in Berlin, a film which Riefenstahl claimed had been commissioned by the International Olympic Committee. She also went to Greece to take footage of the games’ original site at Olympia, where she was aided by Greek photographer Nelly. This material became Olympia, a successful film which has since been widely noted for its technical and aesthetic achievements. She was one of the first filmmakers to use tracking shots in a documentary, placing a camera on rails to follow the athletes’ movement, and she is noted for the slow motion shots included in the film. Riefenstahl’s work, together with photographer, Walter Frenz
on Olympia has been cited as a major influence in modern sports photography. Riefenstahl filmed competitors of all races, including African-American Jesse Owens, he died of lung cancer age 66, on 31-03-1980, in what would later become famous footage. After the Goebbels Diaries surfaced, researchers learned that Riefenstahl had been friendly with Joseph Goebbels and his wife, Magda Goebbels attending the opera with them and coming to the Goebbels’ parties. However, Riefenstahl maintained that Goebbels was upset that she had rejected his advances and was jealous of her influence on Hitler, seeing her as an internal threat; therefore, his diaries could not be trusted. By later accounts, Joseph Goebbels (did you know) thought highly of Riefenstahl’s film making but was angered with what he saw as her overspending on the Nazi-provided film making budgets. During the Invasion of Poland, Riefenstahl was photographed in Poland wearing a military uniform and a pistol on her belt in the company of German soldiers; she had gone to the site of the battle as a war correspondent. On 12-09-1939 she was in the town of Końskie when 30 civilians were executed there, in retaliation for an alleged attack
on German soldiers. According to her memoir, Riefenstahl tried to intervene but a furious German soldier held her at gunpoint and threatened to shoot her on the spot. She claimed she did not realize the victims were Jews. Closeup photographs of a distraught Riefenstahl survive from that day. Nevertheless, by 05-10-1939, Riefenstahl was back in occupied Poland filming Hitler’s victory parade in Warsaw. She left Poland and apparently chose not to make any Nazi-related movies after this, however. Leni had a short relation with the Eiger mountan climber, Anderl Heckmair, but married on 31-03-1944, in Innsbruck the with the Iron Cross decorated, Major Eugen Karl “Peter” Jacob of the 2nd Gebirgsjäger Regiment 143, belonging to the 6th Gebirgs-Division.
The 6th Gebirgs-Division under SS Gruppenführer Karl-Heinrich Brenner saw heavy combat in the Greek campaign in April 1941, smashing through the Greek Metaxas Line and advancing on Saloniki. Leni Riefenstahl met Peter Jacob on a train heading for the Dolomites as she was researching locations for the movie “Tiefland” in 1941. Riefenstahl and Jacob divorced in the spring of 1947; Jacob became involved with Henriette “Henny” von Schirach-Hoffmann. A brother of Leni died in Russia. Her later years, Riefenstahl became known for her longevity and physical stamina, although she often suffered considerable pain from old injuries. At age 72, Riefenstahl began pursuing underwater photography after lying about her age to gain certification for scuba diving, she cut 20 years off her age.
Death and burial ground of Riefenstahl, Berta Hélène Amalie “Leni”
In 1978 she survived a helicopter crash in Sudan in 2000 while trying to learn the fates of her Nuba friends during the Sudanese civil war. Leni Riefenstahl died in her sleep on the late evening of 08-09-2003 at her home in Pöcking, Germany, a few weeks after her 101st birthday. She had been suffering from cancer.
She is buried in Munich on the Waldfriedhof. On this cemetery are also buried the next persons, General der Flieger, Kommandeur IV Flak Regiment, Rudolf Bogatsch, Generalleutnant der Artillerie, Commander of the Troops Exercise Grounds in Maria ter Heide, Heinrich Curtze, Generalmajor der Infanterie, Kommandeur Wehrmacht Operaties Staff, Ernst Detleffsen, Franz Ritter von Epp, Generalmajor der Kavallerie, Staff of the Inspector of Land Fortifications West, Gero von Gersdorf, Oberst der Wehrmacht, Highest German Commander on D-Day, Normandy, Ernst Goth, SS Obergruppenführer, Kommandeur General II SS Panzerkorps, Paul “Papa” Hausser, SS Obersturmführer, Chef 1./SS Pz Grenadier Regiment 38 “Goetz von Berlichingen”, Bruno Hinz, Generalmajor der Flieger, Commander of the Air Defend Division, Max Ibel, aircraft designer, Hugo Junkers, General der Panzertruppen, Kommandeur der 4th Panzerdivision, Dietrich Saucken, Hitler’s Navy adjutant Karl von Puttkamer, Generalmajor der Flieger, Kommandeur Luftregio Truppe 3, Ernst Weber, the bearer of the Nazi blood flag SS Standartenführer, Jacob Grimminger , the scientist Werner Heissenberg, Generalmajor der Gebirgstruppe, Kommandeur der Jäger Regiment 100, Otto Schury, Goering’s second wife, Emmy Goering-Sonnemann, Generaloberst der Flakartillerie, Commander in Chief of the Air Force, Günther Rüdel.
. Günther Rüdel made a brilliant military career in the Reichswehr, then in the Luftwaffe.