Museum Fellowship Lesson Plans

  Joseph Goebbels
Goebbels, German propaganda minister.
Courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives.

Triumph of the Will

Christina Chavarria
Division of Education
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum




Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will is considered by some to be the greatest propaganda film ever made. It provided a record of the sixth Nazi Party Congress held at Nuremberg, Germany in September 1934. In this lesson, students consider the film's historical context and begin to understand its powerful impact.


  • To identify and recognize propaganda and its purpose.
  • To review fallacies in logic and persuasive appeals.
  • To think critically about images and symbols in film and how they affect point of view.
  • To recognize elements of German culture and what they symbolized in 1934.
  • To analyze the power of masses.

Time Required

Two class periods of at least 50 minutes each


Grades 10-12 

Curriculum Fit

Social Studies, World History, Holocaust Studies


  • Harran, Marilyn J. The Holocaust Chronicle. Lincolnwood, Ill. : Publications International, 2000.

  • Riefenstahl, Leni. Triumph of the Will. New York, NY : Crown Video, 1984.

Anticipatory Activity

  1. Discuss the meaning of the word propaganda, traditionally defined as the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person.
  2. Review the seven forms of propaganda outlined in Handout.
  3. Explain to students that propaganda most often relies on emotional appeal. Have students discuss possible reasons why.

Procedure / Strategy

  1. Explain to students that Triumph of the Will is a documentary film of the 1934 Nuremberg Party rally; Hitler commissioned filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl to produce this film. It is now considered a classic of propaganda film. Background information may be found in The Holocaust Chronicle online or in the print edition.
  2. Tell students that no camera is ever neutral; that a photographer/artist uses his/her medium to convey point of view.
  3. Have students prepare a dialectical notebook for viewing of Triumph of the Will; students will list images and symbols they see in the film on the left-hand side of the journal; on the right, possible interpretations of the images and symbols.
  4. Show the first ten to thirteen minutes of Triumph of the Will; remind students to look at the power of masses and sense of belonging the film conveys.
  5. Give students time to write their interpretations in their notebooks.
  6. Assign the following prompt:

Think of possible themes you saw in the film. How are Germany and Hitler presented? How would this film be different (including sight and sound) if it were made in the current year? How are symbols used to portray Hitlerís view of the Aryan race, women, etc.? 


Listed below are seven propaganda techniques. Can you identify examples of each technique as used by the Nazis?


Definition / Instance

Example From Film


- following the crowd

- Vote for candidate A, everyone is.



- endorsement by/of celebrity

- The President thinks the V.P. is doing a great job.


Glittering Generalities

- broad and vague statements

- The US is doing that in the interest of peace and prosperity.


Plain Folk

- pretend to be one of the common people

- I'm the working man's friend.


Card Stacking


- presenting only one side of the issue

- Capital punishment is morally wrong and 90% of the countries of the world do not practice it.


Name Calling

- give the opposition a bad name

- He's un-American.



- use symbols to accomplish purposes for which they were not intended

- Put picture of Uncle Sam next to a candidate.




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