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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 September, 2003, 11:58 GMT 12:58 UK
Film-maker Leni Riefenstahl dies
Leni Riefenstahl in the 1930s
Riefenstahl's propaganda films pioneered new techniques
Controversial film-maker Leni Riefenstahl, who made the Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will, has died aged 101.

Riefenstahl became a favourite of German dictator Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, making films for his fascist regime.

Her most famous work was Triumph of the Will, a propaganda film showing a Nazi rally in Nuremberg in 1934.

She was never a Nazi party member, and never charged at a war crimes tribunal.

Her death was reported on the online version of German magazine Bunte. Her longtime companion Horst Kettner said she had "quietly fallen asleep" at her home in the Bavarian town of Poecking on Monday afternoon.

Riefenstahl also made the film Olympia, a documentary on the Berlin Olympics of 1936. Critics said her work glorified a regime responsible for the deaths of millions.

But she was adamant she was not a supporter of the Nazis, and had done the films for art and not politics.

'Documentary, not propaganda'

"I was only interested in how I could make a film that was not stupid like a crude propagandist newsreel, but more interesting", she once told BBC News Online.

"It reflects the truth as it was then, in 1934. It is a documentary, not propaganda."

Her Nazi documentaries were hailed as groundbreaking film-making, pioneering techniques involving cranes, tracking rails, and many cameras working at the same time.

Leni Riefenstahl
Riefenstahl kept working until the end of her life

But only last year, Riefenstahl was investigated for Holocaust denial after she said she was unaware that Gypsies which had been taken from concentration camps to be used as extras in one of her wartime films had later died in the camps.

Riefenstahl began her career as an actress - Hitler was said to have been captivated by her appearance in the film The Blue Light.

After the war she was unable to find work in films, and turned to photography. She was celebrated for her work on the disappearing Nuba tribe in the Sudan.

In her 70s, she took up scuba-diving to help with back pain. She released a film, Impressions Under Water, in 2002, compiled from over 200 dives. It was widely acclaimed.

The BBC's Nick Higham
"She became one of Hitler's foremost propagandists"

Meeting Leni Riefenstahl
09 Sep 03  |  Entertainment
Hitler's film-maker turns 100
22 Aug 02  |  Film
Obituary: Leni Riefenstahl
09 Sep 03  |  Film

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