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Visual "texts" study of Triumph of the Will, Olympia, and Labour Camps.

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The visual "texts" I have chosen for this study vary both in their production standards, target audience, resources, both in human effort and money spent, and in their presentation. What ties them all together however, is that they are all, in one form or another, an attempt by the Nazi authorities to influence the hearts and minds of the German, and foreign public. That is to say they are all works of Nazi propaganda. The most famous is undoubtedly Triumph of the Will, a visual catalogue of the 1934 Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg. This work, directed by Lena Riefenstahl has been acclaimed as a wonderfully directed and produced piece of art, and at the same time revered as disgusting Nazi Propaganda. The other works I have chosen are Olympia, also by Leni Riefenstahl, and Labour Camps, and extract from a series of films shown to German primary and secondary school children. Olympia is another stunning piece of visual imagery, from the 1936 Olympic Games in Munich, and is not unlike what we would see on television during modern Olympic games, but does incorporate the Nazi message. Labour Camps is a short extract, aimed at the young, attempting to teach them the Nazi message of physical fitness, hard work and arms training. It is virtually no-budget when compared to the spectacular Triumph of the Will and Olympia, but nevertheless would have been just as important as part of the Nazi propaganda machine. ...read more.


This film would have been used as a recruitment tool in German schools, and would have been very successful. Children would be attracted to the uniforms and the medals. For the historian, this piece shows us many things about National Socialist propaganda. Firstly, although this film was low-budget, and did not contain sound, it was of a high technological standard. It would have been viewed by its creators as a cheap, yet effective method of presenting the Aryan ideal. Secondly, as its title suggests, it is preparation for young men to enter military service. This shows us that the German society at this time was fixated with military prowess, and we can see that the propaganda was in some part responsible for this. "Olympia" was the second major work of propaganda directed by Leni Riefenstahl. Undoubtedly she was commissioned for this work as a result of the success of Triumph of the Will. The film includes sound, and is technologically advanced for its time. It is a work released in 1936, depicting the XI Olympic Games held in Munich in the same year. The opening scenes of Olympia is regarded as one of the greatest pieces of work filmed at this time. We are shown the ruins of ancient Greece, and the places where the ancient Games were held. Part of the ruins depict sculptures of a ancient Greek Gods. ...read more.


Media students can also appreciate the talent of Leni Riefenstahl as a director, in presenting Munich in parallel with ancient Greece, and Hitler in parallel with the Gods. It gives us an invaluable insight into how the German public, and the German media respected and portrayed their leader. "Triumph of the Will" is without doubt the most famous piece of National Socialist propaganda. Accepted almost without exception as a masterpiece of media art, it has also been vilified as disgusting Nazi apologist propaganda. "it is probably one of the most powerful and at the same time repulsive films ever made"1 said one commentator. Released in Germany in 1935, it shows the 1934 Nuremberg rally in all its glory and splendour. It has been described as an "incomparable beautification of the Reich"2 Directed by Leni Riefenstahl, "Triumph of the Will" was at the time the most expensive film ever made and utilised the most modern photographic, camera and sound equipment available. Lasting over 60 minutes, we are shown varying aspects of the Nazi party machine, from the leadership, right down to the Hitler Youth. Each and every scene has been meticulously choreographed by Albert Speer, and the director. This is not simply a cinematographic diary of the events in Nuremberg, it is quite clearly designed to present to the people of Germany, and those abroad the National Socialist message. Footnotes 1. Burden Hamilton N, The Nuremberg Rallies 1923-1939. (Pall Mall, London) p.97 2. ...read more.

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