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Triumph of the Will: A memorial in film


Daniel Maddock


Despite Hitler’s efforts to transform Berlin into Germania, the capital of the new world he envisioned and which he believed would bear comparison with Ancient Egypt, Babylon, and Rome, there is little in the way of monumental architecture to bear witness to that ambition. Though there is only limited public evidence of Hitler’s architectural hubris present either in stone or steel, the same cannot be said of film. Leni Riefenstahl’s masterpiece Triumph of the Will (1935) (German: Triumph des Willens) is the most famous propaganda film of all time and a staple of university film schools and secondary schools across the world. At the time of its creation, celluloid motion picture film was a relatively new technology and the documentary format a nascent art form. Nevertheless, it was lauded almost immediately as a visually stunning imagining of the new regime and its leader. Though the film maker was subsequently reviled for her Nazi associations, as an art work her film has retained an almost miasmic aura that justifies continued re-assessment of its standing as a monument to the Nazi regime and the horrors perpetrated in its name.   


Authenticity, Documentary film, German history, Realism, Leni Riefenstahl, Nazi Germany, Propaganda

How to Cite:

Maddock, D.  (2021). Triumph of the Will: A memorial in film, Historical Encounters, 8(3), 41-54.


  • Published 22 December 2021

  • Double Blind Peer Reviewed

  • Author Retains Copyright

  • Distributed under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 License

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