Triumph of the Will (1935)




Director:    Leni Riefenstahl

Riefenstahl's documentary on Hitler's 1934 Nuremberg rally, which has often been held as an excellent example of how to use a rally to manipulate people's emotions for propaganda purposes.




The historical document of the 1934 Congress of the National Socialist German Workers Party.

Party Day of Victory, September 4-10, Nuremberg.

Commissioned by order of the Fuhrer.

"September 5, 1934. Adolf Hitler flew again to Nuremberg to review his faithful followers."

Pictures of a plane flying above the clouds.

Shots of the Old City of Nuremberg.

There are lots of people in formation on the streets marching.

People are awaiting the arrival of the Fuhrer. They give the fascist salute as Goebbels and Hitler come out of the plane.

Motorcade from the airport to the Hotel Deutscher Hof. Hitler rides standing up in a convertible car. The people are yelling for him as they give the fascist salute. He's at the head of a large motorcade.

A woman with a baby gives a bouquet of flowers to Hitler. People in the windows of buildings give the fascist salute.

Arrival at the Hotel Deutscher Hof.

Hitler's S. S. Bodyguard Regiment is there.

Hitler says hello to the huge crowds of people waiting outside the hotel.

Band serenade and night rally in front of Hitler's hotel. The band plays a triumphant tune for the Fuhrer. There are many lighted torches.

In the morning Nazi banners hang from windows all over the main streets.

Scenes of Hitler Youth and German Youth encampment outside the city of Nuremberg. There are rows and rows of tents set up for the young people. Boys play the drums and blow the trumpets. The youths clean themselves. Some are hosed down with water hoses.

The youth transport firewood for the cooking pots and pans as breakfast is prepared. A noodle soup is served. Boys rough house with each other. There is a lot of laughter with lots of happy boys wearing big grins.

"Farmers marching past in traditional costume and presenting the harvest to Hitler." Hitler shakes the hands of some of the marchers.

"Hitler and Dr. Robert Ley, Reichsleiter and Head of the German Labor Front (D.A.F. -- Deutsche Arbeitsfront), review ranks of Labor Front men." They have heroic-looking stances they take. Hitler goes down the line shaking hands with the front line of men.

Passing the crowds in cars:

Rudolf Hess, Deputy Fuhrer.

Viktor Lutz, S.A. Obergruppenfuhrer and Chief of Staff of the Storm Troopers (S.A. -- Sturmabteilungen) -- succeeding Ernst Rohm.

Dr. Josef Goebbels, Reich Minister of People Enlightenment and Propaganda and Gauleiter of Berlin.  [A Gauleiter was the party leader of a regional branch of the NSDAP (more commonly known as the Nazi Party) or the head of a Gau or of a Reichsgau.]

Baldue Von Schirach, Reichsjudendfuhrer (Reich Youth Leader).

"Congress Hall of the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers Party)."

On the Six Party Day Rudolf Hess opens with a memorial to the passing of the famous German General Field Marshal and Reich President Von Hindenburg. He also acknowledges Germany's fallen comrades in the last war. He welcomes representatives from other nations who have come to the Party Days. A big applause is given for the leadership of the German armed forces.

Hess then praises Hitler. The people will support Hitler through both good and bad days. "Adolf Hitler, Hail victory! Hail victory!"

Next speaker: Adolf Wagner, Gauleiter of Munich-Upper Bavaria Adolf Bavarian Interior Minister and S.A. Obergruppenfuhrer.

Next speaker: "Alfred Rosenerg, Reichsleiter and later Reich Minister for annexed eastern territories."

Next speaker: "Dr. Otto Dietrich, Reichsleiter and Reich Press Chief in Ministry of People Englightenment and Propaganda."

Next speaker: "Dr. Fritz Todt, Reich General Inspector of Highways and Construction and Minister of Armaments and Munitions."

Next Speaker: "Fritz Reinhardt, State Secretarhy in the Reich Ministry of Finance and S.A. Obergruppenfuhrer. "

Next speaker: "Richard-Walther Darre, Reich Agricultural Leader, Head of Central Office of Race and Resettlement."

Next speaker: "Julius Streicher, Gauleiter of Upper Franconia and Editor of 'Der Sturmer' ". He says: "A people that does not protect the purity of its race goes to seed! "

Next speaker: "Dr. Robert Ley, Reichsleiter and Head of the German Labor Front (D.A.F. -- Deutsche Arbeitsfront).

Next speaker: "Dr. Hans Frank, Reichs Minister of Justice and later Governor General of occupied Poland."

Next speaker: Goebbels.

Next speaker: "Konstantin Hierl, Reichsarbeitsfuhrer, Head of the German Labor Service.

"Reich Labor Service Review before Hitler. " There are 52,000 R.A.D men ready for Hitler's inspection. Various men say what part of Germany are they from -- from all over Germany, of course. "One people! One leader! One Reich! Germany!" The workers are all in uniforms as if they were part of the army. Their spokesman even says that thought they have not been in combat: "we are soldiers!" Then Hitler gives them words of praise to raise their spirits.

Viktor Lutze, S.A. Chief of Staff at S.A. Night Rally. He shouts to the S.A.: "We S.A. workers will always be true only to the Fuhrer and fight for the Fuhrer. " A loud cheer goes up and fire works go off.

Hitler Youth and German Youth Rally at the German Stadium. Hitler and Baldue von Schirach, Reich Youth Leader, make their appearances. Then comes Goebbels. Then there's Martin Bormann, Secretary to the Fuhrer and Head of the Party Chancellery, and Rudolf Hess. The youth band plays a tune in honor of Hitler. There are thousands upon thousands of youth in the crowd. Hitler gives them a rousing speech too. He wants them to be a part of something much bigger than themselves. He wants them to acknowledge that ranks and castes are not important compared to the greater Reich that all of them are part of and which they will help make so much better. He adds: "The same spirit that governs us burns in your young minds. And when the great columns of the movement sweep through Germany today then I know that you will close ranks and we know that Germany lies in front of us. Germany marches within us and Germany follows behind us!"

Air Marshal (later Reichsmarschall) Hermann Wilhelm Goering, Hitler and Minister of War General Werner von Blomberg, review units of the Reichswehr.

Ride-by of the 18th Cavalry Regiment and modern armored cars and gun caissons of the Reichswehr. Horsemen go riding by. Then armored cars come out and do their fancy maneuvers.

Night Rally of Political Leaders. Architect Albert Speer's "Sea of Flags" and "Cathedral of Lights" on Zeppelin Field. The men with the flags come right up through the aisles between standing men. Hitler says there are 200,000 men standing before him.

Review of S.A. and S.S. and Commemoration of the recent death on August 2, 1934 of Reichsprasident and General Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg.  There are immense formations of men in a huge open space. Himmler, Hitler and Viktor Lutze come walking up an immense gap between the two sides of the formations. They reach the end and give the fascist salute. They then walk back down the immense gap.

Now the Sea of Flags marches up the middle of the immense space. Hitler speaks to the group.

Hitler's grand review of all paramilitary formations of the NSDAP in Adolf Hitler Platz in front of the Frauenkirche (the Church of Our Lady). Hitler is in the lead convertible soaking up the adoration of the people.

March past of S.A. Honor Guard units led by Viktor Lutze. Then there's the "Parade of the Storm Flags".

Among the military men are Grand Admiral Eric Raeder; Hermann Goring in S.A. uniform; and Viktor Lutze. Goring and Hess take the salute. Other leaders there are Max Amann, Reichsleiter in charge of the NSDAP press; Walter Buch, Reichsleiter and Chief Judge of the NSDAP Court; Dr. Robert Ley; Adolf Wagner; and General Franz Xavier Ritter von Epp.

There is group after group of various units that march past Hitler. The sheer mass of men involved is what is so impressive.

The last night of the last day. Hitler makes it clear that the Nazi Party rules as the only voice in politics in Germany. And the people all cheer for his every word.



I don't usually do documentaries, but over the years I have heard so much about this "Triumph of the Will" by Leni Riefenstahl, that I just had to see it for myself.  It seems to me that the main message of the film is to overwhelm the viewer with awe and fear.  At the start the emphasis is on how loved this German leader is by the masses.  They cheer him fanatically and everyone gives the fascist salute of the raised right arm at an angle of 45 degrees.  A mother with a young child in her arms  rushes out to the leader to present to him a small bouquet of flowers.  The leader accepts it graciously.  The idea of all this is that you better not mess with this fellow Hitler because he has the fanatical devotion of all the German people.  The display of affection for the leader is intimidating to other Germans who may not be on the side of the Nazis.

Everything is done in a big way so the immensity of it all is a bit overwhelming.  What kind of chance does one have against all these true believers?  All these immense masses of people? 

The military formations on the Zeppelin Field are truly impressive in size.   My reaction was "wow", I wouldn't want to have to face down this crazed Hitler fellow and his crazed followers.  A person believing in democracy knows the fellow is crazed because of the statements he and his followers make during the many, many speeches.   You know this guy is an absolute ruler with no believe in the people, although he keeps talking about one people.  Yeah, one people united to be led completely dominated by one man.  And there is the talk of the very critical concept of "blood purity".   That certainly would have made me stop and wonder just how are they going to insure "blood purity".    It surely means that some people will be marked as racially impure and be separated from the "pure" crowd. 

Also very impressive was the very long parade of group after group of military, semi-military and paramilitary forces.  All the formations marching past Hitler were huge groups of men, which were a bit fear-inciting since it seemed so many people had been militarized.  With so many men in military uniform, the impression is one of living in a military and police state. 

No wonder the other countries around Germany were a bit afraid of Hitler and did not even want to think about the possibility of Hitler using this great might against them.  The prospect was too scary to even consider Germany as an imminent threat to other nations and peoples. 

I don't think that the director of the documentary was all that talented or important.  The real geniuses of evil were the planners and designers of the show with its stress on intimidation against any and all opponents of German fascism. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.




  Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)