J13. Leni Riefenstahl & the Movies

Leni Riefenstahl (1902-2003) was a German film director, photographer, and actor. In the 1930’s she directed the Nazi propaganda films Triumph of the Will and Olympia, two films that are widely considered the most effective and technologically innovative works of propaganda.

The highlight of the collection is the letter from Riefenstahl to Austrian actor Karl Skraup (1898-1958), expressing the hope that they can work together on future films. Riefenstahl notes that she is enclosing photographs from the movie Tiefland. The collection includes at least 18 original Riefenstahl photographs of that movie, all stamped “Copyright Leni-Riefenstahl Productions”.

Tiefland is a 1954 opera drama directed, produced, co-written, and starring Riefenstahl. It is Riefenstahl’s last feature film as both director and lead actor. The movie is mired in controversy because Roma and Sinti prisoners were chosen as extras and used as forced labor. Even worse, after filming the Roma and Sinti were sent to Auschwitz where many of them died (those scenes were filmed during World War II, even though the movie was not released until 1954) — a few of the included photographs appear to depict the Roma and Sinti.

There is no question that Riefenstahl was a very talented woman producing groundbreaking movies. Although she reinvented herself after the war, her reputation was permanently damaged due to her close collaborations with Hitler.

[LENI RIEFENSTAHL COLLECTION]. Assembled by a Riefenstahl collector in Vienna, the collection contains:

* April 17, 1954 A4 sized typed letter signed “Leni Riefenstahl” and “L.R.” together with its original envelope hand addressed by Riefenstahl to actor Karl Skraup (address later crossed out);

* 16 glossy silver gelatin print still photographs (5 by 7 inches) stamped “Copyright Leni-Riefenstahl-Produktion”;

* 2 glossy silver gelatin print still photographs (7 by 9 inches) stamped “Copyright Leni-Riefenstahl-Produktion”;

* 3 photo postcards of Riefenstahl, two of which are prominently signed “Leni Riefenstahl”;

* 3 small format movie still photographs (not stamped);

* 17 silver gelatin print still photographs (7 x 9 inches) of which two are stamped on verso “Rolf Lantin”;

* 10 Film Kurier movie advertising pamphlets, all of Riefenstahl’s movies: Das blaue Licht, Olympia, S.O.S. Eisberg, etcetera; and

* Over a dozen newspaper articles (in German) about Riefenstahl and her life.


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