Should Triumph of the Will Be Considered a Documentary or Nazi Propaganda

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‘Triumph of the will’ is a film of the 1934 Nazi Rally at Nuremburg. It was directed by Leni Riefenstahl and funded by the Nazi party. The question of whether Triumph of the Will was created for the purpose of Nazi propaganda or simply as a documentary has provoked historical debate. There is no doubt that the film was used as propaganda, as when the Nazi’s annexed Austria, triumph of the will was streamed in every cinema to convert the disillusioned Austrians into practising Nazis. However, historians have questioned the intentions of the film’s creator. Leni Riefenstahl was found to be a Nazi Sympathiser by the French in 1950, but, her reluctance to accept that the film was created as propaganda has triggered a debate among historians which has continued beyond Leni’s death.

Hitler, in his book ‘Mein Kampf’ released in 1924 defined the role of propaganda in that Nazi state as ‘the function of an organisation to win members…work[ing] on the general public from the standpoint of an idea.’ The Nuremberg rallies held in Bavaria from 1923 to 1938 were aimed at promoting the Nazi image. The rally’s were broadcasted on the radio, however in 1933 when Hitler assumed power, Broadcasting of this event became more crucial than ever as Hitler had to rapidly gain public support to keep his position as chancellor. This is why he sought after the renound film star and director to film the event.

Leni Riefenstahl argued in her 1964 interview with David Thompson that the film ‘reflected the truth that was then in 1934…therefore [Triumph of the will was] a documentary. Not a propaganda film.’ She also claimed that Hitler commissioned her to make the film ‘showing the congress through a non-expert eye…selecting what was most artistically satisfying’ as ‘anyone who knew about the relative importance of the various people and groups…might make a film that would be pedantically accurate.’ Audrey Salkeld has supported Leni’s argument understanding that she was only recording...
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