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GERMANY: Leni Riefenstahl and the Nazis

Christopher Jones writes: "There is a general problem with the criticism levelled against Leni Riefenstahl -- almost hypocritical I might add. A great number of German actors and directors who worked under the Nazis happily continued their careers after 1945 while Leni was banned from her profession (informally). Why? Prominent among those male filmmakers was Veit Harlan whose film "Jüd Süss" is the benchmark antisemitic film. Harlan pursued his career in the West German movies and died on Capri Island in 1964. The list goes on and on. Herbert von Karajan was a card carrying member, and Walt Disney had Benito Mussolini's dedicated portrait on the wall of his office until war was declared.

Leni was subjected to such insane, almost idiotic criticism (Fascist seashells? The skins of the black Nuba tribe recalling the uniforms of the SS?) that she has retreated into her own little world. A great pity! If criticism had been more serious, I am sure she would have been more forthcoming -- because the questions surrounding art in the service of a murderous regime are indeed very important.

If the Teutonic spirituality which is so evident in Das Blaue Licht was quickly warped by Hitler into the quintessence of the Third Reich, a really big questions looms: if Leni couldn't work after the war because of her 2 movies, how could the Wagner festivals resume in Bayreuth after after the war? Richard Wagner was as anti-Semitic as they come. Winniefred Wagner was an admirer of "Uncle Wolf" until the day she died and she even coined a new meaning for USA -- Unser Seliger Adolf".

RH: The most disgusting case was the rivalry between the US and the USSR to see which could get the most German rocket scientists. Werner von Braun (1912-1997) designed the V2 rockets which hit Britain and later claimed he did not know what they were doing. He was one of more than 100 German engineers who surrendered to the US Army after the defeat of Germany. He worked for NASA and became a vice-president. A street at NASA facilities is named after him. He left NASA to become vice-president of Fairchild Industries. More money, I suppose. What a noble character!

Ronald Hilton - 11/28/02