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Leni Riefenstahl Funeral Draws Hundreds

September 12, 2003

MUNICH, Germany (AP) _ Some 500 mourners paid their last respects Friday to Leni Riefenstahl, the German filmmaker who used her talents to make masterful propaganda for the Nazis.

Riefenstahl, who died Monday at age 101 at her villa south of Munich, was eulogized by her friend Antje-Katrin Kuehnemann for her lifelong curiosity and strong will.

``What she wanted, she could do,″ Kuehnemann, a TV show host, told an overflow crowed during the hourlong service at Munich’s East Cemetery. ``Leni, now you are at home in our hearts.″

Mourners, many carrying roses, included Riefenstahl’s longtime companion Horst Kettner, who was overcome by tears and left the building as friends remembered her, and German media tycoon Leo Kirch.

Speakers paid tribute to prizes won by Riefenstahl’s films _ such as ``Triumph of the Will,″ her hypnotic portrayal of the 1934 Nazi Party rallies in Nuremberg. The film won gold medals in Venice in 1935 and in Paris in 1937.

Riefenstahl, who started her career as an actress, was dogged since World War II by her work under the Third Reich.

As late as 2002, she came under investigation for Holocaust denial after saying she did not know that Gypsies taken from concentration camps to be used as extras in one of her wartime films later died in the camps. Authorities eventually dropped the case.

Riefenstahl defended her work for the Nazis. Just before her 100th birthday, she told The Associated Press the films had not been propaganda, but rather about art and beauty _ like her later still photographs of the African Nuba people and of undersea flora and fauna, which won acclaim.

``I don’t know what I should apologize for,″ she said. ``I cannot apologize, for example, for having made the film ``Triumph of the Will″ _ it won the top prize. All my films won prizes.″

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