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Last Updated: Friday, 12 September, 2003, 17:56 GMT 18:56 UK
Hundreds mourn Hitler's film-maker
Memorial service in Munich
There was a sea of flowers at the service
Hundreds of people have gathered in Munich to mourn the loss of controversial German film-maker Leni Riefenstahl, who used her talents to make masterful Nazi propaganda.

About 500 friends and admirers - including her longtime companion Horst Kettner and media mogul Leo Kirch - filed into a hall in Munich's Ostfriedhof cemetery where the film-maker's coffin was on display.

"What she wanted, she could do. Leni, now you are at home in our hearts," said Antje-Katrin Kuehnemann, renowned Bavarian TV show host and a personal friend of Riefenstahl.

Riefenstahl - who became a favourite of German dictator Adolf Hitler in the 1930s - died on Monday at the age of 101 at her home in the southern town of Poecking.

In accordance with her wishes, Riefenstahl will be cremated.

'Documentary, not propaganda'

Riefenstahl's most famous work was Triumph of the Will, a propaganda film showing a Nazi rally in Nuremberg in 1934. The film won gold medals in Venice in 1935 and in Paris in 1937.

Leni Riefenstahl
Riefenstahl kept working until the end of her life

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 Riefenstahl - who was never a Nazi party member and never charged at a war crimes tribunal - was adamant she was not a supporter of the Nazis, and had done the films for art and not politics.

"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."

'Hitler captivated'

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 in the 1930s
Riefenstahl's propaganda films pioneered new techniques

But only last year, Riefenstahl was investigated for Holocaust denial after she said she was unaware that Gypsies who 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.

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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