29 Photos Taken Behind The Cameras Of The Nazi Propaganda Machine

Published August 25, 2017
Hitler Goebbels Behind Camera
Leni Riefenstahl Moving Camera
Hitler Leni Riefenstahl Wave
Triumph Of The Will Premiere
29 Photos Taken Behind The Cameras Of The Nazi Propaganda Machine
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Cinema was one of the most important pieces of the Nazi propaganda machine. It fostered hatred and helped lead the path toward war. It helped push the German people to believe in their own racial superiority and thus ultimately helped make atrocities like the Holocaust possible.

And yet, Nazi propaganda films still hold a strange place in history — because, politics completely aside, some of these films of hatred and evil were among the greatest purely technical achievements of their time.

Every film in Nazi Germany was controlled by the party and Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels. He believed that films were essential to controlling the people, and he wanted complete control over their messages.

The Nazi propaganda ministry weighed in on every movie script and casting choice, carefully crafting every moment of cinema in order to make sure that it fit the party's message.

Many, however, refused to be a part of the Nazi propaganda films machine. In fact, some of Germany’s greatest actors and filmmakers fled the country as soon as the Nazis took power, then headed to Hollywood or some other place where they wouldn’t be forced to push the Nazi agenda.

But many other actors and filmmakers stayed behind and became the new stars of the Nazi silver screen. These Nazi propaganda celebrities’ faces adorned magazine covers nationwide, and even around the world. Their mailboxes were full of fan letters from every country. They were stars unlike any Germany had ever seen — not just among their own people, but all around the world.

Furthermore, on a strictly technical level, some Nazi propaganda films were legitimate works of art. Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, a film created solely to celebrate Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, has been celebrated as one of the greatest works of cinematography of its time and is still cited as an influence by filmmakers from George Lucas to Peter Jackson.

And yet the film was undeniably created to glorify one of history’s most reviled figures and to give him the power to commit terrible atrocities — as were other films with even darker messages and titles, like The Eternal Jew, a film created at Goebbels' request solely to spread anti-Semitism.

It is, of course, troubling that filmmakers with such talent would use it for such evil purposes. Most of these filmmakers and actors claim, though, that they were simply like so many other Germans – swept up in the Nazis' ascent.

“I am one of millions who thought Hitler had all the answers,” Leni Riefenstahl has said. “We saw only the good things. We didn't know bad things were to come.”

After this look at Nazi propaganda films, check out these photos of everyday life in Nazi Germany, Then, see what life was like inside the Hitler Youth.

Mark Oliver
Mark Oliver is a writer and teacher, and father whose work has appeared on The Onion's StarWipe, Yahoo, and Cracked.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.