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November 1, 2019

A Binge too Far #7: Nazi propaganda documentary duo (1935 – 1940)

Adolf Hitler in a frame from The Triumph of the Will (1935)
When it comes to real life horrors, it is pretty impossible to think of anything worse than the Nazis; the terror and torture they spread through war crimes and more is unmatchable, history has shown. It was inevitable then that the Nazis would make for perfect cinematic villains. The brief Nazisploitation phenomenon is one of my favorite exploitation film subgenres. But whilst that damned momentum of genre film history has been covered to death, not much has been said about actual Nazi cinema; yes, the films that the actual German Social-Nationalist was poisoning the world with. To be honest, I’m not interested in it either, but I thought I’d take a brief look at it, and I picked the two most well-known documentaries and my views are shared bellow.

The Triumph of the Will (1935) poster
The Triumph of the Will (1935)

This was directed by actress-turned-filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl (one of the first women directors) and it is about the well-documented rally of the Nazi party that took place in Nuremberg, Germany (if they only knew that the same city would become their nemesis, via the famous trials).

It is exhausting at almost two hours long (I mean, how many Nazi marches can one see?), but it is admittedly well-shot (no expenses were spared) and quite megalomaniac (not unlike the Nazi party’s leader) at least for a 1930s documentary subject. Repetitive as it is, the words that are uttered by the leaders of the Nazi party are simply stomach-churning. It had me thinking that Hitler was a charismatic leader, but obviously a terrible abomination of a human being that seemed psychotic.

You will notice that among the many members of the Nazi party that take the microphone (Rudolph Hess being the most ‘popular’ of them) many are missing, because this was shot after the Night of the Long Knifes, during which several party members were murdered.

Considering the artistry with which Riefenstahl work and the methods with which she creates powerful images (although the subject matter was powerful enough anyway), this became one of the most inspirational propaganda films ever made. Yes, what it propagandizes is terrible and despicable, but the way it does it is really astounding. Just imagine such a film for humanist ideas, although one could argue that good ideas wouldn’t need to be propagandized.

The Eternal Jew (1940) poster.
The Eternal Jew (1940)

Directed by loyal Nazi filmmaker Fritz Hippler (he was a prominent member of the Propaganda Ministry of the Third Reich), this hour-long documentary, as you might have already guessed from the title, is about the Jews in general, and how those are a problem for the Aryan race in particular.

In order to be able to see it, you’ll have to have a strong enough stomach as you’ll get to see Jewish migration compared to rat infestation and hear astounding claims such as the one in which the Jews are described as “a race of parasites”.

What is really worrying about several of the doc’s arguments is how many of them are still popular among alt-right politicians, such as the claim that Jews are all about making money by buying and selling stuff, without really producing anything.

The end result is basically a collage of images of Jewish people (mainly filmed at ghettos in Poland, shortly after that country was invaded by the Nazis) accompanied by an unintentionally hilarious narration by actor Harry Geise that presents tampered data that would only be believed today by far-right wing sympathizers.


Emetic and vile, The Triumph of the Will (1935) – ordered to be made by Adolf Hitler, and The Eternal Jew (1940) – ordered to be made by Joseph Goebbels, rank amongst the most disgusting pieces of celluloid that I have ever seen, and they can be recommended to nobody other than academics with an interest in the atrocities of the Third Reich. This is also the only way to screen both films in Germany, as although they are not banned per se, they can only be shown for educational purposes.

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