The Troubling Rehabilitation of Leni Riefenstahl

Berlin’s Museum of Photography is currently planning an exhibit of items from the estate of the filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, whose work earned her the admiration of Adolf Hitler and who produced several propaganda movies for the Nazis. To Matt Lebovic, the exhibit is a reminder that Riefenstahl was never held to account for her collaboration with the Third Reich:

Riefenstahl was the first woman to earn international attention as a filmmaker, directing the Nazi-glorifying Triumph of the Will and Day of Freedom: Our Army. Relying on her close relationship with Hitler, Riefenstahl crafted films that mesmerized the German public and audiences abroad. In Olympia, her racially conscious Olympics extravaganza, she pioneered several [cinematic] techniques. . . .

Following Riefenstahl’s post-war rehabilitation—she was never convicted of being a Nazi by the Allies—she made a secret deal with Transit Films and government officials to receive royalties from her Nazi-era projects. Riefenstahl felt no need for “atonement” along the lines of Hitler’s armaments chief, Albert Speer. Well into her golden years, Riefenstahl vigorously sued people who claimed she had been a Nazi.

When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Riefenstahl arrived on-site as a war correspondent. As the army swept eastward, she witnessed the execution of 30 civilians in the town of Konskie, as well as the murder of Jewish grave diggers. With photographs placing her at the scene of the crime, Riefenstahl later claimed she had attempted to halt the execution, and that she went to Hitler in order to express her indignation. . . . A few weeks after Riefenstahl witnessed the execution, she filmed Hitler’s “victory parade” in Warsaw, in which her patron viewed his forces marching through a bombed-out city. . . .

Beginning in the 1960s, Leni Riefenstahl’s comeback period included a stint photographing the 1972 Munich Olympics as well as interviews in which she distanced herself from Hitler. She always denied having been an anti-Semite or having known about the murder of six million Jews during the Holocaust.

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More about: Adolf Hitler, Film, History & Ideas, Nazi Germany

Is There a Way Out of Israel’s Political Deadlock?

On Tuesday, leaders of the Jewish state’s largest political parties, Blue and White and Likud, met to negotiate the terms of a coalition agreement—and failed to come to an agreement. If none of the parties in the Knesset succeeds in forming a governing coalition, there will be a third election, with no guarantee that it will be more conclusive than those that preceded it. Identifying six moves by key politicians that have created the deadlock, Shmuel Rosner speculates as to whether they can be circumvented or undone:

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Election 2019, Israeli politics