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Leni Riefenstahl Dead at 101 Years

On the artist's wish, funeral service held in Munich


Red roses on the coffin of Leni Riefenstahl at the ceremony on Friday, September 12, 2003 in Munich. Music from Tannhäuser by Wagner was played, as well as from her films. A portrait-photo by Eugene Spiro reminded about the departed. She herself has planned the details of the ceremony: no invitations were to be sent out. All those who like her may come.

Foto: Presspool.


München/Berlin (bpb) The film director Leni Riefenstahl is dead. The admired and contraversial artist died two weeks after her 101st birthday on Monday, September 8, 2003 in her house at the Starnberger Lake. Mrs. Riefenstahl was the best known film director in the world. To that also contributed among others her films which she made in the Third Reich on commission from Adolf Hitler. All her life and after her death the unusual woman has been criticized because of her closeness to the NS leadership. The film director, actress and dancer stressed up to the end of her life, that she served exclusively the arts.

Among the more than 500 guests one saw among others the media king Leo Kirch, the Bavarian TV talkmaster Antje-Katrin Kühnemann and the president of the leading Asscociation of Film Industry, Steffen Kuchenreuther. It was Leni Reifenstahl's express wish to be cremated. This decision was noted by her critics as being a gesture of loyalty to the Führer, whose body was also burned after his suicide. Also Hitler's closest secretary Gerda Christian (Dara) had several years ago a funeral service with cremation. The ashes of this loyal follower of Hitler were strewn into the 'northern Sea'.


Departed at 10:50 pm

Riefenstahls long-time cameraman Horst Kettner reported that she passed away quietly around 10:50 p.m. "Her heart simply stopped." Several months ago, Riefenstahl had a cancer operation. For years she has suffered constant pains.

The death of the world-famous filmmaker was noted everywhere. Politicians andartists honored her as an important artist. The German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Minister of Culture Christina Weiss said in Berlin that Leni Riefenstahl's life journey shows the tragic connection between art and politics. No one can take away from Riefenstahl, that with her talent she had discovered film techniques that have in the meantime become esthetic foundations of filmmaking.

The Bavarian Minister of Culture Hans Zehetmair appraised Riefenstahl's esthetic ideas as "pioneering".

The former President of the Goethe-Institute, Hilmar Hoffmann described Riefenstahl as an artist, who has with her films become an esthetic example for many film directors of the world. While other film directors of the NS times were able to continue to work in their profession after the war, Riefenstahl was not allowed to continue to work in her profession. In the United States and France she was a great example in the area of documentary film. But for Riefenstahl, esthetics have always stood in the foreground of her work. "The notion of beauty was for her more important than the political consequences of this idealization."

The fate of the departed reminds us, according to the opinion of eye-witnesses, in many ways about the sculptor Arno Breker. Honored worldwide as the most significant artist of the classical tradition of the 20th century, the sculptor who died in 1991 is still being fought against in Germany by art historians, museums and politicians. But this has not weakened the worldwide admiration of ordinary people for Breker, and the enchantment of the young generation for the works of the artist is strong. Books and films by and about Breker and Riefenstahl find great interest.



Copyright 2003 West-Art, Prometheus 89/2003


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Copyright 2003 West-Art

PROMETHEUS, Internet Bulletin for Art, Politics and Science.

Nr. 89 Fall 2003