The Wonderful Terrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl

This is a great documentary on the greatest movie director of the Third Reich.

I’ve been binge-watching documentaries about the Nazis. I don’t know much, but it seems like Nazism was a variant of nationalism and all nationalisms require the willingness to commit genocide, if necessary, to protect your group. From the little I know, Nazism seems to be primarily about German solidarity and prosperity.

When one group unifies and rises in power, other groups are affected. Individuals and groups exert a force field. The establishment of strong Jewish and Japanese and black communities in Los Angeles, for example, affect the lives of outsiders around them.

My instinctive self regards the Nazis as the epitome of evil. My stomach gets tight and I feel myself filled with hatred against them because they killed so many people. I blame the Nazis for WWII, which killed 55 million.

My reflective self says different groups have different interests and this produces conflict and tragedy.

From my meager understanding of the Nazis, it does not seem that their primary goal was to commit genocide. Instead it seems like Nazism wanted to create a healthy space for Germans, similar to how Zionism wanted to create a healthy space for Jews.

Let’s say Israel’s conflicts in the Middle East spin out of control and nuclear weapons are used all round and tens of millions of people are murdered. Would this primarily be the fault of the Jews? If the Jews in Israel were simply trying to live peacefully in their own space and they were attacked by their neighbors, then no, it would be the fault of the Jews. From the Nazi perspective, Hitler was tired of Germans getting threatened and so he invaded Poland to create a safe space for Germans and then things spiraled and Hitler, wanting to stop the advance of Jewish Bolshevism, invaded the Soviet Union.

If you are a nationalist, you’ll do anything to protect your people.

Initially, some Orthodox rabbis (such as Jehiel Jacob Weinberg) supported the Nazis and they in turn kept Rabbi Weinberg alive through WWII.

Like all traditional ways of looking at life, the Nazis hated homosexuality, decadence, pornography, and destruction of the nuclear family. Unlike Orthodox Judaism, Nazism made raising up a strong military a top concern. They were also back to nature in a way that Orthodox Jews are not. They venerated hiking and physical activity while Orthodox Judaism venerates study of Torah. There’s no mass killing program outlined in Torah (aside from God’s command 3,000 years ago to wipe out the Canaanites). Jews who study Torah are about the least likely group in the world to commit murder (though they can be strong in Israel’s defense).

All groups seem to regard themselves as superior, be it Jews, blacks, Chinese, Japanese or Nazis so it does not bother me if Germans or any group thinks of themselves as the master race.

In a 2006 lecture, Tom Wolfe said: “Each individual adopts a set of values which, if truly absolute in the world – so ordained by some almighty force – would make not that individual but his group…the best of all possible groups, the best of all inner circles.”

The Nazis wanted all Jews out of Germany and they were pro-Zionism until 1940. Orthodox Judaism does not want non-Jewish residents of Israel. Rabbi Meir Kahane‘s approach to the Arabs in Israel is straight out of the Torah tradition.

I hold conventional views about the Holocaust. I believe there were gas chambers in Auschwitz and Treblinka and there were mobile killing units, the Einsatzsgruppen, because that seems to be the consensus of historians. I believe that approximately six million Jewish civilians were murdered in Europe during WWII just as there were approximately six million Ukrainians starved to death by Stalin during the 1930s and about 70 million Chinese were murdered by Mao.

I do not believe that these genocides constitute a valid reason for stopping discussions of such things as racial differences (such as there might be a genetic reason for why all starting cornerbacks and tailbacks in the NFL are black and why most nuclear physicists are not black).

I love Jews. I wake up thinking about Jews, I go through the day thinking about Jews, and I go to bed thinking about Jews. They are my people. I am primarily concerned with their welfare. This makes it easy for me to empathize with other nationalists.

The Torah commanded the Jews to conquer Canaan and to commit genocide against its inhabitants. Historians say this never happened.

Genocide has not been a traditional Jewish practice, but there were many secular Jews (along with non-Jews) who carried out Stalin’s genocides. Jews played a role in the rise of Bolshevism and Jews enjoyed similar success in the Soviet Union as they achieved in the United States.

ANON tells me:

The Nazi party was not very different from other movements in Germany post war. There were any number of similar groups that formed after WWI, most of a paramilitary bent incorporating large numbers of unemployed veterans. Ultimately Hitler was able to get the rest to accept the Nazis as their leader, but their principles were things that many progressives would embrace such as a back to land, pagan ethic to be stewards of the environment, to be physically fit and eat organic food. To make sure workers weren’t exploited but treated fairly. To engage in large scale public work and infrastructure projects that helped everyone who lived there. To develop a pride in the fact that a defeated nation subject to sanctions, stripped of much of its territory and overseas colonies, could though the industriousness of its citizens become the most powerful and modern country in the world. This is obviously the good side and it is the reason that many people in the 1930’s were admirers of the Nazis and Hitler.

One of the things that I think people who judge the Nazis can’t seem to do is to place themselves as an ordinary German citizen in a smaller city with no or few Jews. By and large, until the war started claiming large numbers of casualties (after the invasion of the Soviet Union) life was probably a lot better after Hitler than before his ascension to power. Obviously, it was not as good if you were a Jew or a communist, but unless you were one or related to one or moved in their circles, the Nazi attitude and treatment of them wouldn’t have made any difference to you. People think that for a burgher in Bavaria in 1937, he could have foreseen that Hitler would try to extirpate Jews from Europe, and bring about the most horrible war leading to half of Germany being under Communist control, and that Hitler would be viewed as the epitome of evil. Very few people could have foreseen that and even fewer would have acted upon their wisdom, but its easy for today’s hypocrites to think they would act differently, not realizing they act the way they do because they too have been conditioned by propaganda.

ANON1 writes:

I really don’t think the Germans were anywhere near as antisemitic as say, the Poles. Jews and Germans got along well enough, and I don’t think the 32% of the Germans who voted for the NSDAP in 1932 did so primarily out of hatred for the Jews, but other reasons. Which still leaves the other 68% who did not vote for them at all and presumably were less antisemitic. Nazism was largely the handiwork of a few men, tapping into the vast energies left behind as a result of WW 1. As to why Hitler in particular came to hate the Jews as he did, I think it was the outlet by which he expressed all of his life’s disappointments.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
This entry was posted in Genocide, Israel, Jews, Nationalism, Nazi. Bookmark the permalink.