Letter to Amazon Concerning Nazi Propaganda Films on Platform

To whom this may concern,

It appears Amazon is a hotbed of Nazi propaganda. Literal, original, unadulterated Nazi propaganda that was produced in the Third Reich. Perhaps you are unaware of these occurrences so I will detail the extent of the issues below.

The most egregious of Nazi offerings currently on Amazon is Leni Riefenstahl’s “masterpiece,” Triumph of the Will—the centerpiece of the Nazi propaganda film canon that glorifies Hitler and the Nazis which was created with the explicit intention of increasing the mass appeal of the Führer, his party, his racist-supremacist ideology, and his deadly plans. Goebbels himself could never have dreamed how more than seventy years since his suicidal defeat one of his proudest Nazi productions would be widely available (even in America!) in its entirety, unedited, unvarnished and, most importantly, without any editorial context to give such an offering at least the semblance of having educational purpose and value. As it stands, Amazon is offering Triumph of the Will in a manner that would have complied with the instructions Reichsminister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels dole out for media publishers in the Third Reich to follow.

In 2021, it’s the overwhelming consensus in media and academia that original hate content, be it Mein Kampf or Triumph of the Will, should never be presented without adequate prefatory context and, if done correctly, never presented continuously or in its entirety (with or without comment to break up the content so as not to satisfy the nefarious intentions of war-criminal propagandists). The original-version Nazi films offered by Amazon do not do this. To be perfectly sure this film lacked the necessary disclaimer/context, I bought the offering on Prime Video to see for myself. It’s sickening. For the nominal fee of $2 to rent or $4.99 to buy I could watch in Standard Definition a film that begins with the great anticipation of Aryan masses for the Fuhrer as he eventually appears soaring above in the sky, as though a demigod descending to the netherworld, touching down to an ecstatic, rapturous, raucous reception in the (in)famous city of Nuremberg where the public sphere was completely outfitted in Nazi regalia. Nowhere at the outset of the film does Amazon or the content licensor provide any sort of historical disclaimer warning people that what they are about to see must be understood in its historical context and, more importantly, how it served the brutal, genocidal project of the Nazis in the lead up to and throughout the Second World War.

After watching this vile “masterpiece” of cinema, I figured surely Amazon would provide the disclaimer in the film’s/product’s description. So I was even  more surprised to discover how the promotional copy glorifies the film, and aside for conceding that this was Nazi propaganda, it makes absolutely no allusion to Nazi crimes, leaving a great many who are unaware of this film’s nature vulnerable to such corrupting influences as Nazi Propaganda in its originalfassung.

In short, such a film should never be presented in its original form without adequate editorial and contextual treatment. And yet, not only is it available as a DVD for sale and fulfilled by Amazon, but it’s offered on Prime Video too. There are, in fact, several versions of the film available, they just can’t be viewed in “my territory,” apparently.

Ordinarily, I would conclude this megillah about now, as serving up a single Nazi classic film is a big enough issue to deal with. So, you can imagine my consternation at the discovery that Triumph of the Will is not the only Riefenstahl-Nazi film available on Amazon! Nope, not even close. Riefenstahl’s other “masterpiece” for sale by Amazon is Olympia—a film the “editorial review” on the DVD’s page describes sparingly and glowingly as, 

Commissioned by Hitler as propaganda, this film of the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics is a tribute to human grace. Directed by Leni Riefenstahl.

Lest there be any confusion, the product’s title makes it abundantly clear that it’s Olympia “The Complete Original Version.” The description of Olympia on Prime offers a tad more “background”:

A powerful documentary that stands the test of time to show the extreme gift of one of history’s best female directors. A woman under the Nazi regime in Germany, who became one of Adolf Hitler’s most prized talents, Leni Riefenstahl created powerfully moving and beautifully visual films showcasing the 1936 olympics which were held in Berlin, Germany during the Nazi regime.

Again, if this was all I had encountered it would have sufficed to indicate that there is a major problem with how hateful content—classic titles, not even new productions designed to evade conventional hate-detection algorithms!—manages to constantly find its way onto Amazon’s platforms. So, I was utterly dismayed to find that the issue was much worse in two ways: first, the issue goes well beyond a couple of Riefenstahl’s films because there are more than 30 original version Nazi-produced propaganda films that are mostly sold and fulfilled by Amazon; second, a quick search reveals how Amazon has supposedly been addressing these concerns since 2018, yet the same issue, be it in book form or kitschy product, repeatedly resurfaced in 2019 and again 2020. And here we are dealing with Nazi propaganda “masterpieces” available on Amazon in 2021. Let’s deal with the latter concern first.

In August 2018, after watchdogs exposed a vast hate-for-profit scheme that had managed, despite Amazon’s best and most sophisticated efforts, to propagate the retail platform with racist and hateful products, Brian Huseman, Amazon’s VP of Public Policy, responded to a congressman’s inquiry into the matter, notifying him of the cited products’ removal from their platform because, “Amazon prohibits listing of products that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual, or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views.” Huseman also went on to explain how Amazon would combat the issue in the future:

Amazon has several mechanisms to prevent products that violate the law or Amazon policy from being offered on our site. We closely monitor and respond to direct customer feedback and external party notices of product pages in violation of the law or our policies, and we undertake proactive measures to ensure policy compliance using sophisticated technology.

Amazon makes a significant investment in, and strictly enforces, our seller policies. We have developed sophisticated, automated tools that use machine learning to scan listings on Amazon, automatically removing listings found to be in violation of our policies, before we are ever notified by an external party. These automated tools are supplemented by teams of investigators that conduct manual, human review of our listings on a regular basis.

That sounded quite convincing. And from what I understand, nothing about these particular contents, with their obvious swastika symbols, bold colors, their well known media titles, and many infamous human subjects, should be difficult for machines to learn and detect and certainly not the supplemental “teams of investigators that conduct manual, human review of our listings on a regular basis.” And yet, in December 2019 we awoke to this lovely headline from the NYT: Amazon Removes Holiday Ornaments With Images of Auschwitz After Criticism. “A bottle opener, a mouse pad and other products displayed images of the Nazi concentration camp,” went the lede. In February 2020, the NYT seemed proud to announce: In Amazon’s Bookstore, No Second Chances for the Third Reich. Except, as the article itself noted:

There is still an abundance of other Nazi material available on Amazon, much of it with favorable reviews. There is the “SS Leadership Guide,” many editions of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” and Joseph Goebbels’s “Nature and Form of National Socialism,” to name just a few.

That only underlines how hard it can be to tell exactly what Amazon’s rules are. The confusion is reinforced by AbeBooks, the biggest secondhand book platform outside of Amazon itself.

Some of the books dropped from Amazon are available on Abe. Recently, there were 18 copies of Mr. Duke’s books on Abe, at prices up to $150. Amazon, which owns Abe, declined to comment.

What prompted the article was Amazon coming under fire for selling the notorious antisemitic Nazi children’s book, The Poisonous Mushroom. Amazon committed to removing it and, as in previous iterations of the same insane drama, assured us all that,

Amazon has policies governing which books can be listed for sale; we invest significant time and resources to ensure our guidelines are followed, and remove products that do not adhere to these guidelines.

In this instance, it would appear to be true as searches for “the poisonous mushroom” yield nothing that’s related to the original Nazi propaganda piece. And in March 2020, The Guardian reported: Amazon bans sale of most editions of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. As they explained it,

Last month Amazon acknowledged the charity’s concerns, saying the company was “mindful of book censorship throughout history” but was taking “concerns from the Holocaust Educational Trust seriously”.

Amazon had already banned the sale of many other far-right books in recent months, although its policies remain opaque. A handful of foreign-language academic editions of Mein Kampf currently remain available on Amazon’s UK bookstore, including an expensive heavily-annotated German language edition published in 2016 entitled: A Critical Edition, suggesting there may be exceptions for versions of Hitler’s words that provide sufficient historical context.

Amazon’s position on Mein Kampf shows growth in understanding and tackling the serious issue of unwittingly promoting age-old hatred in their original versions. To be able to sell Hitler’s screed in a somewhat acceptable manner, it required “an expensive heavily-annotated” version that could be made an exception only when “versions of Hitler’s words… provide sufficient historical context.” That’s a good baseline to stick to.

As it stands, there are approximately 30 Nazi propaganda films that are all available for DVD sale; most are fulfilled by Amazon, and a couple of the films are available for purchase and streaming on Prime. For example, one particularly grotesque antisemitic Nazi film, The Eternal Jew, shows a DVD for sale by a private seller while The Rothschilds’ Shares in Waterloo is sold and fulfilled directly by Amazon. I have listed the full extent of our organization’s findings at the moment so that you can conduct your own review and take appropriate remedial action. Many organizations in our sphere who come across this sort of issue rush to the press to get attention. That’s never been our approach as we don’t care for attention as much as correction of the issue. In this case, given what has been outlined above and provided below, correction would entail expediently removing every such problematic title while explicating how—between the ever more sophisticated algorithms and human reviewers—such an easy-to-detect issue like this not only sprouts up in the first place but is able to fester in the background (corrupting how many impressionable minds in the process?) until someone serendipitously encounters vile media that should’ve been consigned to the same ash heap of history that Hitler burned and buried himself in. There must be ways Amazon can ensure that the least sophisticated attempts to game the system aren’t enabled to do so, which I’m sure demands at least as much time not well spent for your global corporation as it does of our tiny nonprofit organization. To that end, we are willing to assist in any way necessary to ensure that Amazon—is there a department that’s tasked with stamping out what is clearly a multi-year pattern of directed abuse and gross policy violations on Amazon’s platforms?—has the necessary knowledge to fully identify the many components of the Nazi propaganda trove.

Considering the severity of this issue and the need for speedy remedy, it’s my sincere hope you will look into it without unnecessary delay. I’m committing to keeping this a matter that ought to be resolved privately with the expectation of a response acknowledging the problem within a reasonable timeframe. It needn’t be resolved instantly, just initially addressed to ensure we’re on the same page as to how such problematic contents are viewed in light of Amazon’s published policies and established precedents.

If there is any additional information required that I can provide, please let me know. Otherwise, I’m looking forward to a rapid but durable resolution to this ongoing problem.

Thank you,

Israel B. Bitton

Executive Director

Americans Against Antisemitism


The Eternal Jew or The Rothschilds’ Shares in Waterloo? 

Is Amazon the #1 Global Supplier of Nazi Propaganda Films?

See below:

  1. Der Ewige Jude/The Eternal Jew
    1. used DVD for sale by private sellers 
    2. Another version
    3. Another version
    4. Another version
  2. Triumph of the Will  by Leni Riefenstahl
    1. DVD for sale by Amazon and on Prime Video to Rent/Buy
    2. Oddly, another version is listed but “unavailable to watch in your location” 
    3. And another version
  3. Victory of Faith (Der Sieg des Glaubens) by Leni Riefenstahl
    1. DVD for sale by Amazon
  4. Olympia: The Complete Original Version by Leni Riefenstahl
    1. DVD for sale by Amazon and on Prime Video to Rent/Buy
  5. The Blue Light – Riefenstahl
    1. DVD for sale by Amazon
  6. S.O.S. Iceberg – Riefenstahl
    1. DVD for sale by Amazon
  7. Storm Over Mont Blanc – Riefenstahl
    1. DVD for sale by Amazon
  8. The Great Leap – Riefenstahl
    1. DVD for sale by Amazon
  9. Riefenstahl Collections – Box Sets – DVDs for sale by Amazon
    1. Triumph & Olympia
    2. Triumph & Olympia – Special Box!
    3. Triumph, Victory of Faith, and Day of Freedom
  10. Hans Westmar: One of Many – DVD for sale by Amazon
  11. Die Frontschau / The Front Show – DVD for sale by Amazon
  12. In Battle Against the Enemy of the World: German Volunteers in Spain by Karl Ritter – DVD for sale by Amazon
  13. Kolberg: The Restored 1945 Epic – DVD for sale by Amazon
  14. U-Boote Westwärts! U-Boats Westward! – DVD for sale by Amazon
  15. The Rothschilds’ Shares in Waterloo – DVD for sale by Amazon
  16. Pour Le Mérite – dir. Karl Ritter – “The purest of all Nazi films” – DVD for sale by Amazon
  17. Über Alles In Der Welt Above All in the World – Karl Ritter 1941- DVD for sale by Amazon
  18. The Great King – DVD for sale by Amazon
  19. Fridericus – DVD for sale by Amazon
  20. Bismarck – DVD for sale by Amazon
  21. Die Entlassung The Dismissal – dir.  Emil Jannings – DVD for sale by Amazon
  22. Unternehmen Michael Operation Michael Dir. Karl Ritter – DVD for sale by Amazon
  23. Wunschkonzert – DVD for sale by Amazon
  24. Standschütze Bruggler – DVD for sale by Amazon
  25. Stukas: Restored Luftwaffe WW2 Epic – DVD for sale by Amazon
  26. Stosstrupp 1917 – DVD for sale by Amazon
  27. Besatzung Dora Air Crew Dora, Karl Ritter 1943 – DVD for sale by Amazon
  28. Sieg Im Westen: Victory in the West – DVD for sale by Amazon
  29. Afrika Korps – DVD for sale by Amazon
  30. Jud Süss aka The Jew Suss – used DVD for sale