Page last updated at 10:32 GMT, Tuesday, 9 September 2008 11:32 UK

Nazi-era photos surface in Bolivia

By Alfonso Daniels
La Paz, Bolivia

A dark-haired handsome cameraman is seen standing on a diving board filming a diver from behind as he jumps.

Scene from the diving pool at the Berlin Olympics
Olympia used new ways of filming sport, including slow motion

In other shots he is shown carrying a rubber boat next to an empty pool that he used to film the swimming competition and patiently fitting a small camera in a rowing boat seat.

These are just some pictures of the 1936 Berlin Olympics uncovered for the first time, providing a rare glimpse into how Olympia, the film depicting the Games, was made.

The film, one of the most impressive sports films of all times, was the cornerstone of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels's efforts to show the splendour of the new German Reich.

The cameraman appearing in the pictures is Hans Ertl, the right-hand man and lover of Olympia's director, Leni Riefenstahl.

True love

His daughter Beatriz, 63, handed over these pictures which she had kept stored away in a cardboard box in her simple two-storey house in Kupini, a poor neighbourhood of Bolivia's administrative capital, La Paz.

Hans Ertl with his camera

"My father knew Hitler well, they met at the Olympics. He also met there my mother who was working as a secretary. But Leni of course was his true love, he kept repeating this until the last days of his life," Beatriz said as she took out her father's sleeping bag and the light-brown shirt he used while working as German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's official photographer in North Africa.

After being briefly arrested by the Allies at the end of the World War II, Ertl fled to Chile and then Bolivia, where he arrived in 1953.

He was following the footsteps of countless Nazis like Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyon, who was often seen sitting in coffee shops in La Paz surrounded by bodyguards.

Ertl travelled to South America with his wife and three daughters, including Beatriz.

One day the gears on his old military pick-up truck broke and while he awaited for a replacement he found out about a farm on sale called La Dolorida, in the middle of Bolivia's eastern jungle lowlands.

Hans Ertl's daughter Beatriz with the collection of old photographs

He bought it, cleared the trees and built a house where he lived the rest of his life, tending livestock and chickens.

"It was in the middle of nowhere, he used to fatten livestock with marijuana. He kept 15 dogs and countless cats, there were vipers and tarantulas," said Beatriz with a smile.

Ironically, his favourite daughter, Monika, joined the extreme left National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas and in 1971 murdered "Toto" Quintanilla, the Bolivian consul in Hamburg, the man who had cut off Che Guevara's hands.

Monika was killed two years later by the Bolivian military in the streets of La Paz.

"Monika was his favourite daughter, my father was very cold towards us and she was the only one he loved. He was the result of a rape, my grandmother never showed him affection and that marked him forever, he only showed affection for Monika," said Beatriz.

"He was shocked when she joined the guerrillas, he threw her out of the farm, she became the most wanted woman in the whole of South America."

Hans Ertl
Hans Ertl is buried in the grounds of his farm in Bolivia

"Monika spent four years with the guerrillas, wrote once a year telling us not to worry, that she was alright, but we never saw her again. My father learned of her death while listening to the Voice of Germany on radio. The Bolivian government has never returned her body."

In Bolivia, Ertl continued with his work, photographing indigenous people and the 19th Century Jesuit missions that dot the area.

"Filming was his life, but one day in the early 1960s he had an accident. His tractor fell through a wooden bridge as he transported his latest film. All the film rolls were lost and the German production company who hired him sued him. After that, he never took the camera again," said Beatriz.

Ertl died eight years ago, aged 92, on his isolated farm, which is now a museum.

Although he refused to return to Germany, he asked his other daughter, Heidi, to send him a bag of German soil, one of the last things she did for him before relations between them broke down, only 10 days before his death.

He is buried in a small patch of land on La Dolorida, dressed in an old German military uniform he wore the last days of his life.

In pictures: Hans Ertl
09 Sep 08 |  In Pictures
Obituary: Leni Riefenstahl
09 Sep 03 |  Film


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