• Germany's news in English

Riefenstahl's Olympic film secretly sold to IOC

The Local · 22 Apr 2013, 15:02

Published: 22 Apr 2013 15:02 GMT+02:00

Riefenstahl's "Olympia," an epic four-hour feature film documenting the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games has received critical acclaim across the world ever since the Third Reich first celebrated its release on Adolf Hitler's 49th birthday, April 20, 1938.

Yet the German state no longer owns the rights to one of the most famous films ever to come out of the country, wrote Die Welt newspaper on Monday. They were secretly sold off to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) by former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's government a decade ago, according to the paper.

In allowing the sale of the influential - and controversial - film back in 2002, Schröder believed he was helping Leipzig's chances in its bid to host the 2012 Summer Games. However, the sale made no difference - the eastern city never even made the top five candidates.

German director Leni Riefenstahl is renowned for her 1934 propaganda epic "Triumph of the Will" in which she shows Hitler wielding absolute power over his party at the National Socialist conference in Nuremberg. Yet she has always claimed total artistic independence from the regime and exclusive ownership of the rights to her films.

But the German Federal Archive always said the two high-budget epics had been commissioned and financed by the Nazi regime and so the usage rights were the rightful property of the modern German state.

In 1964, West Germany drew up a contract with Riefenstahl, which agreed that while both parties claimed exclusive ownership of the films, the director was to hold the usage rights and claim 70 percent of the royalties from them.

Riefenstahl was also allowed to choose where and when her films were screened - a potentially politically-explosive responsibility the West German state decided it could do without. In 1979 she refused an application by the Free Democrats (FDP) to screen "Triumph" at an anti-Nazi rally.

Then suddenly in 2002, wrote the paper, the German government got wind of attempt by the now 100-year-old director to sell the "Olympia" film rights to the IOC, who had pledged to gain and restore Olympic feature films.

The problem of Riefenstahl selling partial state property was taken all the way up to then Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, said Die Welt. Schröder agreed to the sale - mainly because he mistakenly thought it might sway Olympic Committee into granting Leipzig the games.

Story continues below…

The film, of which there are countless edited versions in three languages, has been as controversial as it was successful. After the war, Riefenstahl fell out of favour and the film's images of Hitler, Hermann Göring and Joseph Goebbels and the glorification of perfect Aryan bodies all left an unpleasant taste.

A post-war edit removed most of the footage of Hitler and this version was screened West Germany and in US cinemas. The film went on to win many international prizes for its ground-breaking use of advanced cinematic techniques, and appears on Time magazine's top 100 films of all time.

The Local/jlb

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Lion shot dead at Leipzig Zoo after breaking out of cage
Motshegetsi (l) und Majo. Photo: DPA

A young male lion was shot dead at Leipzig Zoo on Thursday afternoon after he broke out of his enclosure.

EU takes Germany to court for 'discriminatory' foreigner toll
A sign that reads "toll" along the Autobahn by Rostock. Photo: DPA.

The European Commission on Thursday said it is taking Germany to the EU Court of Justice because of the country's plan to impose a road toll that would mainly charge foreign drivers.

After 3-year trial, suspected neo-Nazi terrorist speaks out
Beate Zschäpe. Photo: DPA

Beate Zschäpe, the only living member of an underground neo-Nazi cell accused of murdering ten people, has spoken to the court in Munich after three years of silence.

Green party wants only e-cars on Autobahn by 2030
Photo: DPA.

The environmentalist Green party has an ambitious plan for German cars to be petrol- and diesel-free within the next 15 years.

Commerzbank to make one in five staff redundant by 2020
Photo: DPA

Germany's second largest lender Commerzbank said on Thursday it plans to cut 9,600 jobs by 2020 and withhold dividends to pay for a €1.1 billion restructuring.

Germany's favourite smoker wins battle against eviction
Photo: DPA

How a pensioner with a serious smoking habit won a years-long fight for his right to keep his home - and his favourite pastime.

Thousands evacuated after WWII bomb found in Cologne
File photo of a Second World War bomb: DPA

Several thousands people were being evacuated from a district of Cologne just north of the old town on Thursday morning, after a Second World War bomb was found in a parking lot.

Kidnapped German journalist and her baby freed in Syria
File photo of a Syrian soldier: SANA/DPA.

A German woman who was kidnapped in Syria last year while she was pregnant has been freed along with her baby, the German Foreign Office said on Wednesday.

Air Berlin to cut 1,200 jobs and halve airline fleet
Photo: DPA.

Struggling Air Berlin, Germany's second-largest airline, announced on Wednesday a major restructuring plan that shrinks its fleet and cuts 1,200 jobs.

Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
Photo: Thomas Wolf/Wikimedia Commons.

From stunning chalk-white cliffs to fairy tale castles, Germany has some breathtaking sights to see, perfect for social media.

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd