(Claudia Roth Pierpont’s article appeared in the New Yorkers, 10/19.)
Travelling from Germany to the Paris International Exposition, in the summer of 1937, Leni Riefenstahl went under an assumed name. She had no desire to confront reporters. In Paris, she won the fair’s gold medal for a film she had directed, a documentary-style celebration of the Nazi Party congress three years earlier. Yet she was also forced to defend herself, in interviews, not against her Nazi ties but against the swirling rumors that she had fallen into disgrace with the leaders of the Reich. Was it true that Goebbels had repudiated her? Were some upper-echelon Nazis unhappy that a woman wielded so much power? On her way back to Berlin, exhausted, she stopped off in Berchtesgaden, where she was escorted to Adolf Hitler’s mountain retreat, so that she could describe her trip to the one man whose support for her was absolute.
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