lriefenstahl.jpgLeni Riefenstahl, the director of Adolf Hitler’s propaganda films, died of natural causes. She was 101.
Born Helene Bertha Amalie Riefenstahl, she began her artistic career as a dancer until a knee injury knee made her shift her focus to movies. She appeared in seven Arnold Fanck films including, “Mountain of Destiny,” and was soon acting, writing and directing her own movies.
Riefenstahl heard Hitler speak for the first time at a 1932 rally and immediately wrote to him, offering her talents to his cause. She made four films for Hitler, including “Triumph of the Will,” which focused on the 1934 Nuremberg rallies and “Olympia,” an insider’s look at the 1936 Berlin Olympic games. Although many suspected Riefenstahl of being Hitler’s lover, she denied this claim. She was, however, the only woman to help shape the rise of the Third Reich.
For the next 60 years, Riefenstahl received critical acclaim for her films and photography books, but she never lived down her connection to the German dictator. In 2002, she was even investigated for Holocaust denial when she said she didn’t know that the Gypsies who appeared as extras in one of her wartime films later died in concentration camps. The case against her was eventually dropped.
Much of her work after the war focused on underwater photography. Even at 100, she still strapped on her scuba gear to photograph sharks and tropical fish in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. In the early 1990s, she was the subject of the three-hour documentary, “The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl,” by German filmmaker Ray M