Review by Willard Manus
and 1945, the Nazi film industry cranked out a thousand features, an astounding
number for a country at war for much of that time. The state, as embodied
by Josef Goebbels, subsidized every aspect of the industry for propaganda
purposes. It was, as the documentary HITLERS HOLLYWOOD shows, the
most effective way for the Nazis to communicate with the masses, control
their thinking, manipulate their emotions.
best-known filmmaker was Leni Riefenstahl, a former art student and dancer.
After directing and acting in The Blue Light, a major hit
in the German mountain film genre, she was invited by Goebbels
to film the Nazis 1934 political rally. Responding with dramatically
lit, geometrically-framed tableaux of huge crowds surrounded by Nazi insignia
and uniformly enthralled by Hitler (first seen in an airplane making a
Godlike entrance through swirling clouds), she created Triumph of
the Will, the ultimate in Fascist propaganda. She followed that
with Olympia, a documentary account of the 1936 Olympic Games
and a rhapsodic hymn to the Aryan ideals of athleticism and physical beauty.
With shots of temples and statues implying a spiritual link between the
ancient deities and the Third Reich, Riefenstahl glorified Nazi power,
ambition and achievement.
many revelations in HITLERS HOLLYWOOD is the one involving a film
dealing with the fate of the Jews in Nazi Germany. In Jew Seuss
the Jews are shown to be filthy, contemptible creatures who will soon
be exterminated by the regime. This promise, delivered in a voice-over,
was contained in a feature film exhibited all over Germany. It proves
that, contrary to what most Germans claim, just about everyone in the
nation knew about the concentration camps and the Final Solution (and
did little or nothing about it).