Leni Riefenstahl

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The Independent Online

On her 100th birthday, in 2002, Leni Riefenstahl was faced with new accusations that she had not told the truth about the Sinti and Roma who had played as extras in her film Tiefland, set in a traditional Spanish "gypsy" community, writes Professor David Childs [further to the obituary by Val Williams, 10 September].

She had claimed that she had seen all these individuals after the Second World War and that nothing had happened to them in the Third Reich. In fact, the organisation of Sinti and Roma in Germany was able to prove that more than 20 of the 48 extras it had identified (out of nearly 120) had been murdered in Auschwitz. One survivor, Zazilia Reinhardt, 76, told how she and her colleagues had been forcibly recruited for the film from internment camps in Marzahn (Berlin) and Max Glahn (near Salzburg). They were not paid.

The Sinti and Roma are now demanding damages for the survivors and that their names should be added to the credits given on the film. Riefenstahl gave an undertaking not to repeat her previous inaccurate statements. Hitler is said to have approved of what he saw of the film and to have financed the project.