March 01, 2004
A leading Holocaust research institute is criticizing the Academy Awards for including Nazi propaganda filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl in the memorial tribute to recently-deceased movie industry figures during last night’s awards ceremony.
Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, wrote in a letter to Frank R. Pierson, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: “Leni Riefenstahl was Hitler’s hand-picked filmmaker, and she played a leading role in making propaganda for the most evil regime in human history. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences should not have included her alongside legitimate artists who recently passed away, such as Gregory Peck and Elia Kazan, but rather should have explained that Riefenstahl was an example of how art can be perverted to promote fascism, racism, and genocide.”
Riefenstahl, who died last September, was personally chosen by Hitler to direct films glorifying the Nazis, such as “Triumph of the Will.” Riefenstahl even used Gypsy prisoners from German concentration camps as extras in one of her films. Although Riefenstahl later claimed she did not support the Nazis, when Hitler conquered Paris in 1940, she sent him a telegram declaring: “Your deeds exceed the power of human imagination. They are without equal in the history of mankind. How can we [the German people] ever thank you?”
The Wyman Institute’s Arts & Letters Council includes a number of prominent filmmakers, as well as leading artists, writers, and musicians.