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Propaganda Film: Triumph of the Will

A clip from the film Triumph of the Will
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of National Archives & Records Administration

At the time the Nazi Party rose to power in 1933, many Germans identified themselves primarily by their religion or class—or by their region, town, or city. For example, many people thought of themselves as Bavarians, Silesians, or Berliners first rather than as Germans. The Nazis, in contrast, believed that all so-called "Aryan" Germans belonged to a single "national community" ("Volksgemeinschaft") with a common cultural and racial identity.1 

Nazi leaders believed that it was important to strengthen and expand the "national community" in order to dominate other supposedly "inferior" races and peoples. Nazi propaganda celebrated Germans' supposed mystical connection to the German soil and to one another, aiming to bring ethnic Germans of different backgrounds together across regional borders.2

This footage is from one of the most well known and influential Nazi propaganda films: Triumph of the Will. Recorded at the 1934 Nuremberg Nazi Party Rally, the film shows many seemingly positive images of Germans united in support of the Nazi regime and its leaders—especially Adolf Hitler. Director Leni Riefenstahl used pioneering cinematic techniques to show the Nazi regime as a disciplined and energetic movement to restore German greatness. The film portrays Hitler as the savior of Germany. Scenes were shot from dramatic angles. Cameras recorded moving shots from cars, elevators, and airplanes.3 Although Riefenstahl later insisted that Triumph of the Will was a documentary and not a propaganda film, several scenes were carefully staged and some speeches were delivered multiple times for the cameras.4

In the featured clip, members of the Nazi German Labor Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront)5are shown demonstrating military-style discipline, enthusiasm for Hitler and Nazi goals, and a shared sense of national identity. Nazi propaganda during the early 1930s often focused on fixing the widespread unemployment of the Great Depression, and the German Labor Front represented an important part of the Nazi regime’s plan to put unemployed Germans back to work. At the same time, as captured in the film, the German Labor Front invoked the memory of World War I to generate a sense of camaraderie typical in military units. In the clip, members identify their home city or region but stand together as if united as one in support of Hitler and the Nazi regime. This idea is captured in their slogan, "One people, one leader, one realm—Germany!"6

For more primary sources on Nazi ideas about ethnic and racial camaraderie, see the related Experiencing History items, "What You Inherit," Propaganda Film on Community Welfare, Report on the Camaraderie House for Female Students of Goettingen, Hitler Youth Training Film, and "But Who Are You?"

For more primary sources on the Nazi regime's use of propaganda, see the Experiencing History collection, Nazi Propaganda and National Unity.

The dynamic handheld camera work of Walter Frenz also added to the impact of Riefenstahl's films. To see an example of Frenz’s work, see the related Experiencing History item, German Newsreel Clip on Hitler after the Defeat of France 1940.

Although Riefenstahl had started her career as a dancer and actress, she became best known for her work directing Nazi propaganda films. Her work was recognized for its groundbreaking techniques and her cinematography, but Riefenstahl’s reputation as a Nazi propagandist effectively ended her film career after the fall of Nazi Germany. To learn more about Leni Riefenstahl, see Michael Mackenzie, "From Athens to Berlin: The 1936 Olympics and Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia," Critical Inquiry 29, no. 2 (Winter 2003): 302–336; Catherine M. Soussloff and Bill Nichols, "Leni Riefenstahl: The Power of the Image," Discourse 18, no. 3 (Spring 1996): 20-44; and Steven Bach, "The Puzzle of Leni Riefenstahl," The Wilson Quarterly 26, no. 4 (Autumn, 2002): 43–46.

For more primary sources about the German Labor Front or its recreation organization, "Strength through Joy," see the related Experiencing History items, Photograph of a "Strength through Joy" Car and Photograph of "Strength through Joy" Event at Strandbad Wannsee.  

For another primary source related to this slogan, see the related Experiencing History item, Film of Woman and Child with Propaganda Displays.

The Battle of Langemarck took place in western Belgium in 1917 during World War I. After heavy losses, German authorities propagated a myth about the heroism and self-sacrifice of young German troops killed in the battle. The myth endured under Nazism as an apppeal to martyrdom among young people on behalf of the German nation. See this related resource for more on the Langemarck myth.

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[cries of Heil!]

Mein Führer! Ich melde 52.000 Arbeitsmänner zum Appell angetreten. 
Heil Arbeitsmänner!
Heil mein Führer!
Spaten über! Spaten ab!
Wir stehen hier. Wir sind bereit und tragen Deutschland in die neue Zeit. Deutschland!
Kamerad, woher stammst Du?
Aus Friesenland.
Und Du, Kamerad?
Aus Schlesien.
Von der Waterkant.
Vom Schwarzwald.
Aus Dresden.
Von der Donau.
Vom Rhein.
Und von der Saar.
Ein Volk, ein Führer, ein Reich! Einheit!

Wir standen nicht im Schützengraben und nicht im Trommelfeuer der Granaten und sind trotzdem Soldaten mit unseren Hämmern, Äxten, Hobeln, Hacken, Spaten. Wir sind des Reiches junge Mannschaft. Wie einst bei Langemark!


My Führer! I report 52,000 RAD men lined up for roll-call. 

Hail, RAD men!

Hail, my Führer!

Spades, over! Spades, down!

We stand here. We are ready and carry Germany into the new era. Germany!

Comrade, where are you from?

From Frisia.

And you, Comrade?

From Silesia.

From the North German coast.

From the Black Forest.

From Dresden.

From the Danube.

From the Rhine.

And from the Saar.

One people, one Führer, one Reich! Unity!

We were not in the trenches and not in the barrage of the shelling. And are soldiers nonetheless, with our hammers, axes, planes, hoes, spades. We are the Reich’s young team. As long ago, at [the Battle of] Langemarck.1


Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of National Archives & Records Administration
Accession Number 1998.191.1
RG Number RG-60.2448
Source Number 63
Date Created
Duration 00:01:52
Sound Yes
Videographer / Creator
Walter Frentz
Nuremberg, Germany
Moving Image Type Documentary
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