That Leni Riefenstahl was rather a monster is not really in dispute. And if it ever was, two new biographies provide enough information to nail her. Bad behavior began early. Steven Bach, in his excellent Leni, tells the story of Walter Lubovski, a Jewish boy in Berlin who fell madly in love with Riefenstahl after meeting her at a skating rink. In a fit of teenage cruelty, Leni and her girlfriends tormented the boy so badly that he slashed his wrists at the summer cottage of Riefenstahl’s family. To stop her father from discovering what had happened, she shoved the bleeding boy under the sofa. He survived and ended up in a mental institution before escaping to America, where he went blind. All Riefenstahl had to say when she heard was: “He never forgot me as long as he lived.”
Always a romantic about herself, Riefenstahl promoted the idea that all men were slavishly in love with her. Enough were, it seems. Working in a man’s world, Riefenstahl made the most of her charms, and her tantrums; tears came easily to this tough operator. But in her casual and, it seems, often callous promiscuity she behaved more like a typical man than a woman of her time. Whether or not Béla Balázs, the Hungarian critic and screenwriter, was one of her love slaves, he was smitten enough to write much of the screenplay for The Blue Light, Riefenstahl’s first film as a director, and to direct several scenes as well. He even agreed to defer payment until the film earned money.
The movie, an overblown romance about a wild-eyed woman (Riefenstahl) scrambling up a mountain and communing with crystals above the swirling Alpine clouds, was dismissed in 1932 by Berlin critics as protofascist kitsch. Riefenstahl was furious: “What do these Jewish critics understand about our mentality? They have no right to criticize our work.” Perhaps she had forgotten that Balázs was Jewish too; in any case, she would soon claim sole credit for the film. After 1933, her critics, Jewish or not, were silenced. Hitler hailed the film as a sublime manifestation of the German spirit, and it became a success. For the sake of racial purity, Balázs’s name had by then been removed from the credits, and the man himself had relocated to Moscow. When he demanded his cut, Riefenstahl asked her friend Julius Streicher, editor of Der Stürmer, to handle the matter. Balázs never saw a pfennig.
Still, great artists don’t have to be nice. The question is whether Leni Riefenstahl was really a great artist, as she claimed, and as many others, by no means all Nazi sympathizers, still believe. Or was her work so tainted by bad politics that it could never be regarded as good art, however technically inventive? This raises other questions: Can fascist or Nazi art ever be good? And what about the work Riefenstahl did before and after the Third Reich? If The Blue Light and other Alpine fantasies about the German sublime could be condemned by the eminent critic Siegfried Kracauer as “heroic idealism” that was “kindred to Nazi spirit,” what about Riefenstahl’s postwar photography of African tribesmen and marine life in the Indian Ocean? Susan Sontag famously detected a continuous sensibility in all Riefenstahl’s work, including the African pictures, which she described in these pages as “fascinating fascism.”1
Sontag’s argument was as much about the reception of Riefenstahl’s work as the art itself. Enthusiasts, she believed, were attracted to a kind of kinky fascism, to the allure of hard men and black leather. Rock stars seem particularly susceptible to this kind of thing. The Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards once turned up in an SS uniform while Leni was photographing Mick Jagger. In a recent interview for a German newspaper, the British singer Brian Ferry rhapsodized:
The way in which the Nazis stage-managed and presented themselves…! I’m talking about Leni Riefenstahl films and Albert Speer’s buildings and the mass rallies and the flags—simply fantastic. Really lovely.2
QED, Susan. But might it still be possible, nonetheless, to separate the best of Riefenstahl’s art from its sinister setting?
Leni Riefenstahl was born in 1902 in Wedding, a low-rent area of Berlin. Her father, Alfred, ran a plumbing business, was a despot at home, and strongly disapproved of his daughter’s early artistic yearnings. Her mother, Bertha, was more encouraging. She may have been partly Jewish. As with other Nazi figures, such rumors have been circulated. But if so, it was well disguised in the various documents of racial provenance that could be a matter of life and death for citizens of the Third Reich.
Leni’s early yearnings ran to expressionist dancing. She was enrolled in a dance school which boasted Anita Berber as a former student. Berber liked to dance in the nude, in pieces with such titles as Cocaine or Suicide. These dances demanded great dramatic gestures of ecstasy and death. The young Leni once replaced Berber in a recital. The style would stay with her. Three Dances of Eros, Surrender, and Oriental Fairy Tale were the titles of her earliest dance performances.
Riefenstahl’s sponsor in the early 1920s was Harry Sokal, a Jewish banker. He showered her with fur coats and money, and begged her to marry him. There were fights, threats of suicide (Sokal’s), but the partnership was fruitful, until Sokal, like Balázs, was compelled to leave Germany (his name, too, disappeared from the credits of The Blue Light). Riefenstahl’s dance performances, put on all over Germany and beyond, were admired for their enthusiasm and beauty. But one critic, John Schikowski, wrote in the Berlin Vorwärts: “All in all, a very strong artistic nature, that within its own territory is perfectly adequate. But that territory is severely limited and lacks the highest, most important quality: that of the soul.”
It is an interesting observation, which might be applied to much of Riefenstahl’s subsequent work in the cinema, even when, or perhaps especially when, it strived to express nothing but soul, the soul of mystical heroines on mountaintops, of the German nation, of the Führer and his paladins. Riefenstahl’s mentor in soulful mountain movies was the specialist in this genre, Dr. Arnold Fanck. But her debut was in a film entitled Ways to Strength and Beauty, in which she appeared as a classical nude figure in the ancient world. The film, released in 1925, was in line with the German fashion for healthy naturalism, nude calisthenics, tough sports, male bonding, and the cult of “Germanness” (Deutschtum). The guiding idea, Bach informs us, was nothing less than the “regeneration of the human race.”
Fanck’s films are very much in this mold. In 1925, Riefenstahl starred in The Holy Mountain as a beautiful young woman caught in a love triangle on a mountaintop (“her life is her dance, the expression of her stormy soul”). Female temptation in this type of film is a danger that must be defied by a heroic act of male sacrifice. The two rivals for her affections choose to die as comrades, tumbling together into an icy abyss.
Why Fanck cast Riefenstahl as the star is not entirely clear. She herself never doubted the magic of her personal appeal. Fanck, too, allegedly threatened suicide when Riefenstahl shifted her amorous attentions to the leading man, Luis Trenker (Sokal had already been left pining in the cold, despite his largesse). “All of them were in love with me,” she recalled. “Oh, it was a drama always!” But the fact that Harry Sokal offered to finance the movie must have helped her get the part. More than that, Sokal bought out Fanck’s company. After The Holy Mountain, Riefenstahl starred in The Great Leap (1927), The White Hell of Piz Palü (1929), and Storm over Mont Blanc (1930).
Although none of these films rose above crude melodrama, Fanck had a real talent for visual effects. He was a great experimenter with different lenses, camera angles, and filters. Working with such superb cameramen as Hans Schneeberger (another Riefenstahl conquest), he was a master of dramatic cloud effects and backlighting that gave human figures as well as Alpine landscapes a mystical aura. The hyped-up drama of expressionism was fused in his work with a quasi-religious mood of German Romanticism. Susan Sontag used the phrase “pop-Wagnerian,” which seems about right.
Fanck himself became a keen Nazi, and the Nazis borrowed heavily from the same aesthetic sources. None of these, however, neither the Romanticism, nor the expressionism, nor the Wagnerism, let alone the avant-garde visuals of the Weimar period, can be called inherently fascistic. To be sure, the stress on physical perfection, heroic sacrifice, male discipline, power, purity, and the grandeur of nature lent themselves very well to the Nazi or fascist style. But so did the clean classical lines of some Bauhaus architecture. Joseph Goebbels, the author of a truly awful expressionist novel entitled Michael, initially favored expressionism as the most suitable style for the Third Reich. Hitler, whose taste ran more to sentimental nineteenth-century kitsch, quashed that idea. He liked heroic nudes, Wagnerian bombast, and monumental classicist architecture.
It is tempting to see a direct link between Fanck’s The Holy Mountain and Riefenstahl’s quasi documentary of the 1934 Nazi rally in Nuremberg, Triumph of the Will. Of the two authors under review, Steven Bach comes closer to this view. Jürgen Trimborn, a young German film historian, whose book is more earnest and less amusing, but well worth reading, is almost painfully nuanced. Yes, “the Darwinism underlying many of Fanck’s films placed them in dangerous proximity to National Socialist propaganda.” Yes, in the context of the “nationalistic elevation of alpinism, the films of Arnold Fanck were praised as a ‘profession of the faith of many Germans.'” But, Trimborn writes,
despite such arguments, it would be an oversimplification to consider the mountain films exclusively as prefascist creations, as this does not take into consideration the complex roots of the genre, including the literature of Romanticism, the alpinist movement, and the nature cult of the early twentieth century.
If this is right—and I think it is—it doesn’t help to make the case for Riefenstahl. With her considerable talent, energy, and opportunism, she absorbed Fanck’s technical innovations in camera work and editing and used them to produce works of pure Nazi propaganda. What makes The Triumph of the Will such a poisonous film is not the classicism and crude Romanticism of Weimar-period Deutschtumelei, but the political manipulation of such aesthetics by Riefenstahl and Albert Speer, who designed the parade grounds at Nuremberg for the party rally.
They were much alike, Hitler’s favorite architect and favorite filmmaker: young, ambitious, intoxicated by power, and more than a little unscrupulous. This doesn’t mean that they were convinced Nazi ideologues. Speer wasn’t the only architect who saw a main chance in German totalitarianism. Greater men than he, such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, fished for commissions from the Nazis. Just as there was an aesthetic link between Fanck’s mystical mountains and the Nazi style, the cold, perfectionist modernism of Mies could lend itself to totalitarian aims. But happily for Mies, Hitler did not warm to his projects. He not only preferred Speer and Riefenstahl, but insofar as he had an emotional life at all, he seems to have adored them. Even though there is no evidence, in the case of Riefenstahl, that his feelings led to any physical entanglement, she did nothing to quell the rumors that they had.
Did she adore Hitler too? After the war, Riefenstahl fiercely denied any interest in politics, including Hitler’s. She was a pure artist, she maintained, a political innocent. Yet she read Mein Kampf in 1931 and expressed her enthusiasm to, of all people, Harry Sokal, her Jewish patron. “Harry,” she said, “you must read this book. This is the coming man.” A year later, she went to hear Hitler speak at the Sportpalast in Berlin. “It was like being struck by lightning,” she recalled in imagery that could have been lifted straight from one of Arnold Fanck’s mountain movies, or, for that matter, from her own expressionist dance pieces:
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.
What makes this disturbing is not the feverish Romantic sentiment per se, but the object to which it is applied. When such yearnings are focused on a violent rabble-rouser whipping up mass hysteria in a sports stadium, any claim to innocence sounds hollow. This is precisely the problem with Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. The worship of Hitler is so overt, from the moment he descends in his plane from the Fanck-like clouds over Nuremberg to the sounds of the Meistersinger overture and the Horst Wessel Song, that you know this “documentary” cannot have been made in a spirit of political naiveté.
It wasn’t, of course, a documentary at all, but propaganda staged as a kind of Gesamtkunstwerk by Riefenstahl and Speer. Although she denied it, we know from various witnesses, quoted in the biographies, that several scenes were reconstructed after the rally in a Berlin studio. We also know that far from being ordered to make the film, Riefenstahl longed to make it, indeed lobbied for it. As with Speer’s architectural plans, Hitler took a personal interest in the project. He was the ultimate producer of his own spectacle (the title was his choice). As a result, whatever Riefenstahl wanted, she got. Triumph of the Will was made with the resources of a major Hollywood production: thirty-six cameramen, nine aerial photographers, a lighting crew of seventeen, and two still photographers, one of whom shot nothing but pictures of Riefenstahl herself. She was the only filmmaker in Nazi Germany who answered directly to the Führer and not to Goebbels’s propaganda ministry.
This became very irritating to Goebbels, especially when Riefenstahl treated her budgets as though she had a direct line to the national treasury, which in effect she did. His exasperation was later used as evidence by Riefenstahl that he hated her because she wouldn’t sleep with him. But no matter. Many great filmmakers go over budget, and annoying Goebbels was no sin. Triumph of the Will is a stunning achievement. She used all the editing techniques and camera work learned from Arnold Fanck, but also came up with ideas of her own: cameras held by men on roller skates or installed in an elevator behind Hitler’s podium, the brilliant cross-cutting between crowds and performers, the extraordinary choreography of a cast of thousands. The problem is that her genius, in this film, is purely technical, applied to an unworthy subject. As Bach observes:
She used her century’s most powerful art form to make and propagate a vision that eased the path of a murderous dictator who fascinated her and shaped a criminal regime she found both inspiring and personally useful.
Was this because she was predisposed to Nazi ideology, or a fascist aesthetic? Not necessarily. In the 1920s Riefenstahl desperately wanted to be a Hollywood star, and pestered Josef von Sternberg to cast her in The Blue Angel instead of Marlene Dietrich. Thank goodness he didn’t, for Riefenstahl had very little talent for acting. Nor did she have a gift for directing feature films. One of the most revealing statements she made was in Ray Müller’s The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl, a German documentary made about her in 1993. Repeating her claims of political innocence, she said about Triumph of the Will that she really didn’t care whether she had to photograph SS men or vegetables; what interested her was the beauty of composition, of artistic effects.
This was almost certainly true. She would have made a fine director of Radio City Music Hall dance routines, or bathing beauty movies, or North Korean tableaux made up of thousands of anonymous people in stadiums holding up colored cards. But these were not her options in 1934. Perhaps the Faustian bargain she struck with Hitler was her only shot at immortality. Even if we leave aside her personal views and sensibilities, her talents were a perfect match for Hitler’s grand project of turning his murderous vision into a mass spectacle, a kind of musical of death. But it was too kitschy, in the sense of false and misplaced emotion, to be great art. In Riefenstahl, Hitler had found his perfect technician.
What about Olympia, Riefenstahl’s documentary of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, surely the best film she ever made? Divided into two parts, Olympia: Festival of Nations and Olympia: Festival of Beauty, the movie was first shown at the Ufa Palast am Zoo in Berlin on Hitler’s forty-ninth birthday in April 1938. Everyone who was anyone in the Nazi pantheon—Hitler, Goebbels, Goering, Ribbentrop, Himmler, Heydrich, et al.—was there, as well as such luminaries as the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, the actor Emil Jannings, and the boxer Max Schmeling. Riefenstahl’s name was up in lights. Hitler saluted her. The audience went wild over her. She was on top of the world, or at least on top of the Reich.
Riefenstahl told lies about this film, as she did about so much else. It was not an independent production, commissioned by the International Olympic Committee, as she claimed, but a film commissioned and financed by the Reich. There is also no doubt that Olympia was meant to burnish Germany’s image in the world as a benign, hospitable, modern, efficient, peaceful nation of sports lovers. Riefenstahl willingly helped to give Hitler’s regime credibility. But what of the work itself? Is it an example of “fascinating fascism”?
Olympia: Festival of Nations begins with a familiar melange of the neoclassical cult of Greece and moody Fanck-like cloudscapes, suggesting a continuity between ancient Greece and modern Germany. The famous sculpture of Discobolus, the discus thrower, slowly dissolves into a nude athlete, shot in Delphi. This film image has been interpreted as a tribute to Aryan manhood. And Hitler was so keen on the sculpture (the original of which no longer existed) that he bought a Roman copy in 1938. In fact, however, the Romantic identification with ancient Greece started long before the Nazis appropriated such imagery, and the model chosen by Riefenstahl was not German, but a dusky Russian youth named Anatol Dobriansky, whom, as Bach tells us, she briefly took as her lover after paying his parents a fee.
Riefenstahl was as anti-Semitic as most of her compatriots, that is, enough to turn a blind eye to the persecution of Jews without, so far as we know, necessarily welcoming their extermination. But Olympia cannot be described as a racist film, and Riefenstahl’s personal taste in men was neither racist nor nationalistic; she had had Jewish lovers, and after she discarded the Russian boy, she took up with Glenn Morris, the American decathlon winner. If there is one heroic model of physical perfection in Olympia, it is Jesse Owens, the black American athlete.
Racism, however, is not an essential part of the argument that Riefenstahl’s aesthetic was typically fascist. It is the cult of physical perfection itself that is considered to be a fascist attribute, for it implies that the physically imperfect are sick and should be treated as inferior human beings. The cult of physical perfection is linked to the Darwinian struggle, where the strong not only prevail but must be celebrated, even worshiped for their physical power. This would apply to individuals in sporting contests, as well as to nations or races.
That the Nazis held such views is clear, and Riefenstahl herself was not immune to them. But Olympia is a film about athletes, about physical prowess, about using the body to achieve maximum power and grace. Riefenstahl’s stated aim—and there is no reason to doubt her word on this—was “to shoot the Olympics more closely, more dramatically than sports had ever been captured on celluloid.” And this, assisted by forty-five excellent cameramen and seven months’ work in the editing room, is precisely what she delivered.
She went way beyond Fanck in visual experimentation: cameras were attached to balloons and light planes, suspended from the necks of marathon runners, and fastened to horses’ saddles. Some of the action was filmed from specially dug trenches or from the top of steel pillars. She enraged Goebbels with her incessant demands and financial extravagance. Other camera crews were rudely pushed aside and the concentration of athletes was carelessly interrupted. Some scenes were restaged and spliced together with other footage. She broke all the rules and was a pain to everyone, but she produced a cinematic masterpiece. Jürgen Trimborn is right to call it “an aesthetic milestone in film history.”
But if Olympia is indeed a tribute to physical perfection, it is a frosty perfection. Individual character, human emotion, none of this appears to have mattered to Riefenstahl. Bach talks about “the sensual, even erotic quality that pervades much of Olympia,” and Susan Sontag’s critique was aimed at what she called the “eroticization of fascism.” This might be a matter of taste, but the nudity in Olympia strikes me as oddly unerotic, even unhomoerotic, despite Riefenstahl’s fascination with naked men frolicking in sauna baths and jumping into lakes. The film has the cold beauty of a polished white marble sculpture by Canova. Mario Praz’s description of Canova as the “erotic frigidaire” could apply to Riefenstahl as well, her own frolicking with many men notwithstanding.3
The Hellenistic and Romantic traditions echoed in Olympia can be found in official Nazi art, to be sure, but also in paintings by Jacques-Louis David, another opportunistic court artist and celebrator of revolutionary heroism. He, too, was fascinated with nude warriors, great leaders, and Romantic death scenes. But this does not diminish the beauty of his art. Just as one can admire David’s paintings without being a Napoleon worshiper, it should be possible to separate the cold beauty of Olympia from its political context. Triumph of the Will, however skillfully contrived, is nothing but political context. Its only purpose was political. Olympia is essentially about sports.
The problem with Riefenstahl, and the main reason for her limitations as an artist, is that she was not just an erotic frigidaire, but an emotional one too. Her lack of human understanding, or any feeling for human beings apart from pure aesthetics, does not matter so much in a film like Olympia. It matters hugely in a feature film about love, rejection, and intrigue. Tiefland, which took Riefenstahl more than a decade to finish, and was finally released in 1954, is exactly what Bach says it is, “a kitsch curiosity, as nearly unwatchable as any film ever released by a world-class director.”
The theme of a child of nature (Riefenstahl), persecuted by the wicked denizens of decadent civilization, is familiar. The sight of Riefenstahl doing a pastiche of flamenco dancing surrounded by Spanish-looking extras is beyond camp; it is plainly embarrassing. That the extras were in fact Gypsies plucked by Riefenstahl from a camp in Salzburg,4 where they were imprisoned before being sent to Auschwitz, added to her monstrous reputation. She lied about them too, claiming that they all happily survived the war. Most didn’t. But the film fails artistically, not because it is fascist, but because it is clumsily staged like a bad silent movie, with histrionic gestures (echoing Riefenstahl’s expressionist dancing days) making up for plausible human emotions. It was as though nothing had changed since the 1920s.
Apart from everything else, the Nazi period did enormous damage to German artistic expression. The German language was poisoned by the bureaucratic jargon of mass murder, and art had been tainted so badly by the Nazi appropriation of Romanticism and classicism that aesthetic traditions had to be fumigated, as it were, by a new critical spirit. A younger generation of artists such as Anselm Kiefer, writers such as Günter Grass, and filmmakers such as Werner Herzog and Rainer Fassbinder were able to do this. But a critical reinvention of German art was beyond the abilities of Leni Riefenstahl. She was, in any case, too defensive about her own past to develop a critical attitude.
Let off by “de-Nazification” courts as a “fellow traveler,” Riefenstahl couldn’t stop playing the persecuted victim who had known nothing of the Nazi crimes, had been forced to make what she claimed were purely documentary films, and had adored her Gypsy extras. She was nothing but a pure artist in pursuit of beauty, and would sue just about anyone who contradicted her. Many projects were prepared, most of them in the Romantic Fanckian vein, none of them from a critical perspective: a remake of The Blue Light, yet another Alpine vehicle called The Red Devils, a paean to primitive Spain entitled Bullfights and Madonnas, and a movie about Frederick the Great and Voltaire, to be written by Jean Cocteau, who was one of the very few admirers of Tiefland. “You and I,” he told Riefenstahl, “live in the wrong century.” It was a rather charitable view of both their records in the mid-twentieth century.
Riefenstahl only made a comeback of sorts in the early 1970s, when she published two hugely successful photography books on the Nuba: The Last of the Nuba and People of Kau. The color photographs of nude wrestlers, men covered in ash, face paintings, and beautiful girls lathered in butter are competently taken but not works of artistic genius. The subjects are so striking that it would not have been difficult for Riefenstahl to come up with something interesting. Putting herself in a position to do so, however, was not so easy. The Nuba were distrustful of snoops. Riefenstahl, now in her sixties, had the energy, the perseverance, and the thick-skinned gumption to manage it.
The beauty of athletic young black people had always fascinated her; one of her failed projects was a film about the slave trade entitled Black Cargo. Capturing the Nuba on film was inspired by the spectacular black-and-white pictures of them taken by the British photographer George Rodger in 1951. When Riefenstahl offered to pay him for useful introductions, he replied: “Dear madam, knowing your background and mine I don’t really have anything to say to you at all.”
Rodger was with the British troops as a photographer for Life magazine when they liberated Bergen-Belsen. He was shocked to find himself “subconsciously arranging groups and bodies on the ground into artistic compositions in the viewfinder.” This is quite a good description of Riefenstahl’s way of looking at the world, even though she never applied it to emaciated victims of torture and murder. As she said in an interview with the Cahiers du Cinéma, quoted by Susan Sontag: “I am fascinated by what is beautiful, strong, healthy, what is living. I seek harmony. When harmony is produced I am happy.”5 She meant: Jesse Owens, Nazi stormtroopers, Nuba.
Does this make her a lifelong fascist aesthete? Are her pictures of the Nuba infected by the same venom as the footage of SA men stamping to the sounds of the Horst Wessel Song? It is hard to maintain that they are. To be sure, the culture of the Nuba that interested Riefenstahl was not intellectually reflective, pacific, pluralist, or much associated with anything one would call liberal. But it is a stretch to see the tribal ceremonies of a people in the Sudan as a continuum of Hitler’s rallies in Nuremberg. Nor is it fair to describe a viewer’s enjoyment of Riefenstahl’s color photographs of wrestlers and naked youths as politically suspect. The Nuba are what they are, or, more accurately, were what they were when Riefenstahl got to them. Their appeal to her was certainly of a piece with her views on urban civilization. Like the characters she portrayed in Fanck’s mountain movies, she saw them as nature’s children: this was condescending perhaps, Romantic absolutely, but hardly fascism.
Riefenstahl went on working almost to her dying day in September 2003. She sustained injuries from various crashes. Her morbid attempts to defy her age—the thick streaks of makeup, the straw-blonde wigs, the hormone injections and facial surgery—gave her the appearance of an old man in drag. But there she was, celebrating her centennial in the company of Siegfried and Roy, from Las Vegas, and Reinhold Messner, the mountaineer, a week after the première on television of her last work, entitled Underwater Impressions. As the oldest scuba diver in the world, she had spent the last two decades of her life photographing coral reefs and marine life with her much younger lover Horst Kettner.
The endless images of tropical fish and brightly colored sea anemones were not particularly well received. One reviewer, quoted by Bach, called Underwater Impressions “the world’s most beautiful screen saver.” Another spoke of “Triumph of the Gill.” But Riefenstahl felt at home underwater capturing the silent beauty of a yet unblemished natural world. In her own words, it had sheltered her “from the outside world, removing all problems and worries.” Perhaps best of all, it was a world entirely devoid of anything remotely human.
June 14, 2007
The New York Review, February 6, 1975. Reprinted in Under the Sign of Saturn (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1972). ↩
Quoted in The Guardian, April 16, 2007. ↩
Bach relates how in 1933 Riefenstahl was partying with a group of men in the sauna of a Swiss hotel when she took a phone call from Goering, who informed her that Hitler had become chancellor of the Reich. ↩
The camp was in the fields near Schloss Leopoldskron, which had belonged before the Anschluss to Max Reinhardt, the theater director, and was later used as a location for The Sound of Music. ↩
See Under the Sign of Saturn, p. 85. ↩