Triumph des Willens/Triumph of the Will (Germany, 1935)

Figure 1.--I believe this is an image from "Triumph of the Will," but am not sure.

Triumph des Willens/Triump of the Will, was the most famous film made in the NAZI era. It is one of thge most poweful and influential films ever made. It was a brilliant piece of propaganda film making. This documentary of the Sixth Nazi Party Congress at Nuremberg It helped fuel the power of the NAZI state and to make a needed statement of discipline and order that was needed by the NAZIs in 1934. This powerful film had a tremendous impact on Germans, especially young Germans. Its sweeping style was later used by American director Frank Capra for his war documentaries. The director was Leni Riefenstahl. It may well be the classic propaganda film of all time. The power of the film probably was a factor in the Allied decision to hold the war crimes trials in Nuremburg--the ideological seat of NAZI power.


The year 1934 wa a critical one for the NAZIs. It was the second year of NAZI rule. Hitler's execultion of Roem, other SA commanders, and a variety of other opponents in the Night of the Long Knives had brought a sence of disuniy and disorder--the very sence the NAZIs promissed to end. The action against the SA had bought the loyalty of the Wehrmacht. No it was important to convince Germans that Germany was unified and strongly behind the Führer and the NAZIs. Thus the 1934 Party Congress provided the opportunity to make that statement. Hitler needed a film maker that could create a film that created that image.


Leni Riefenstahl (1902?-2003)

The director and editor was Leni Riefenstahl. She was a dancer dancer and actress before becoming a film maker. After hearing a speech by Hitler she became very impressed by him. She never denied that she admired Hitler. (Here we need to note that people like Riefenstahl that were impressed by Hitler were not necesarily endorsing war and genocide.) Hitler reportedly personally selected her to make the film. She also did a film on the 1936 Berlin Olympic games for the NAZIs. She was to wear the moniker "Hitler's filmmaker" the rest of her life. Her choreographed set pieces with thousands of people exceed anything DeMille ever attempted. She also brought sports filming into the modern era in 1936. She used some of the same inovative techniques shown in Triumph of the Will, in her footage of the Munich Olympics, released as Olympiad. Hitler first met Riefenstahl in 1934. He had admired her cinematic work. It was quite a surprise in Germany when he commissioned her to make the official film on the Nüremberg Party Congress in which she directed 0.8 million men. Generally Hitler did not approve of women working, especially in authority positions. Hitler saw her as a movie star as a perfect example of German womnahood. [Time, February 17, 1936.] Riefenstahl was not charged with a crime or arrested after the German surrender. The artistic charge that she misued her art dogged perpetually after the NAZI collapse. She spent the rest of her life maintaing that she was a film maker and not a propgandist. She even made a film to make this point, "The Wonderful, Horrible life of Leni Riefenstahl". She died at age 101 in 2003.


Interestingly the Art Director was a young Albert Speer who had already caught Hitler's eye. Speer as armaments minister was to play a majo role in World War II. Stepp Algeier was the cinematographer. Herbert Windt was responsible for the music. Siegfried Schulz was the sound designer.

Image Making

"Triumph des Willens" is perhaps the classic example of crafted image making. Riefenstahl was a brillint film maker and she assembled a talented crew. The image she created covered over disent within Germany and depicted a revieved and unified German nation. The German cheered Hitler in perfect order. Riefenstahl always saw herself as a documenbtary film maker. "Triumph des Willens" is, however, not a documentary film. A documentary requires accuracy and the inclusion of various points of view. Riefenstahl film is a propaganda piece presenting one single view of reality. The best propagabda is invisible and thus the film maker presented it as a documentary. The images strssed by the film were order, unity, beauty, and triumph.

Technical Aspects

The film iss noted for many bpioneering approaches and technical aspects. The film focused on Hitler. He is depicted in front of dramatic, national images. There were also mang close ups deigned to personalize him. There are shots upwards at him trssing bhis lofty stature. Other importnttechnical featutes were dramnatic agles, use of shadows, and moving cameras. Riefenstahl put a camera on tracks, an inovation alo used in the Olympics film. She also had her cameramen climb flagpoles for dramatic views.


Triumph des Willens was in many ways a ground breaking production. The sweeping style of the video images was a first in its own right. The look has been borrowed ever since by a number of other producers, including Allied war-propaganda movies shown during the 19 1940s, especially American director Frank Capra for his war documentaries.


There was no story line to Triumph of the Will. It was a documentary.


Triumph des Willens/Triump of the Will, was the most famous film made in the NAZI era. It may well be the classic propaganda film of all time. It was a brilliant piece of propaganda film making. It is a frightening example of powerful film propaganda. I am not sure what the impact of the film was in Germany. I believed that it powerfully stired young Germans. It must have also appealed to many ordinary Germans who longed for order after the turmoil of the Weimar Republic. The stunning imagery in the film must have enhanced the thugish NAZI regime. The film dramatically suggests that all Germany was united behind the now ruling NAZI party. Such was not the case in 1934, but it was a primary goal of the NAZIs. The goal was to unify those who were willing to follow and intimidate or eliminate those who would not. Triump of the Will showcased the order of the new Germany showed those Germans who were not prepared to follow what they were up against. After World War II, the film was banned in Germany and still is. It would no doubt be an effective recruiting device for today's neo-NAZIs.

The impact outside of Germany is better understood. It freightened Germany's neighbors. The fervor and martial ardour displayed at this early stage of the new NAZI state began to show Europe that a new war was coming. The power of the film probably was a factor in the Allied decision to hold the war crimes trials in Nuremburg.


The movie was filmed at the Sixth NAZI Party gathering in Nuremburg during 1934.


The props are quite diverse. Banners, flags, and marching standards were every where, boldly embazzoed with the swastica. The NAZI party flag had replaced the Weimar Republic flag of black, red, gold. This was a realtively new flag and many Germans did not morn its demise. The choice of colors was inspired by the 1848 revolution. The flag most Germans remembered was the Imperial flag which was black-white-red--the same colors at least as the NAZI banner. Bugles and drums accompanied the main prop, endless rows of marching, uniformed participants. The Hitler Youth and NAZI Strormtroopers (S.A.) were the primary participants, but the black uniformed S.S. can occasionally be seen at this early stage of NAZI Germany's development.

Hitler's Speech

Hitler flew to Nuremberg to add drama and it was all filmed. At the time it was not common for political leaders to fly. Hitler had begun doing this in the presidebtial campaign against Hindenburg, adding to his image as a man of the future. At the Party Congress Hitler delivered a nighttime address to a cheering throng with a huge NAZI eagle as a dramatic backdrop. This was all captured by Riefenstahl and had a huge impact on not only film making, but popular politics. Think how mang American politicans have themselves photograph in front of dranatic backgrounds such as flags or naval vessels. The thrust of Hitler's speech was that the NAZI movement was necessary because of the injutices that the Germany was subjected to and the plight of her people.


Music was an important part of the film's impact. I do not know, however, the names of the songs.


The film raises a variety of interesting issues dealing primarily with order and obedience and the role of the individual in the state.

Hitler Youth Role

Clothing Details

Hitler Youth uniforms

Role of Clothing

Other Hitler Youth Movies

Information on several other Hitler Youth films, several made in Germany, are avialable on HBC. The first such film was made in Germany, Hitler Jugend Quex. While it looks rather hokey to us today, it had a powerful impact in mid-1930s Germany. The Hitler Youth also played a prominent role in the classic propaganda film of all time--Triumph of the Will.


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Created: September 4, 2000
Last updated: September 9, 2003