Netflix agrees to change Nazi documentary after backlash
Netflix has agreed to change a documentary series after complaints about a historically accurate map shown in its footage.
The Devil Next Door documents the trial of John Demjanjuk, who was accused of being a Ukrainian concentration camp guard known as Ivan the Terrible.
At issue were maps shown in the series showing the location of Nazi concentration camps, such as Auschwitz, inside Poland. The maps were the same shown in actual Israeli TV coverage of Demjanjuk’s trial.
While the camps were located inside Poland’s borders (though Chelmno and Majdanek are off a bit), Polish premier Mateusz Morawiecki wrote an open letter to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings complaining that the maps were “inaccurate” as the camps were built and run by Nazis who controlled Poland at the time. Morawiecki included a map of Europe without the names of modern countries that showed Nazi-controlled territory in a single color and dubbed it the “accurate” map from that time.
Netflix said in a statement obtained by EW and first reported by Variety: “We are hugely proud of The Devil Next Door and stand by its filmmakers, their research and their work. In order to provide more information to our members about the important issues raised in this documentary and to avoid any misunderstanding, in the coming days we will be adding text to some of the maps featured in the series. This will make it clearer that the extermination and concentration camps in Poland were built and operated by the German Nazi regime who invaded the country and occupied it from 1939-1945.”
While it’s clear in the series that Poland was not responsible for the concentration camps, Netflix has agreed to add onscreen text when the maps are shown saying that the camps were built and operated by the Germans — so that even online screengrabs like these below that have circulated on Twitter will have the full context spelled out.
“There is no comment or any explanation whatsoever that these sites were German-operated,” Morawiecki contended in his letter posted on Facebook. “Not only is the map incorrect, but it deceives viewers into believing that Poland was responsible for establishing and maintaining these camps, and for committing the crimes therein. As my country did not even exist at that time as an independent state, and millions of Poles were murdered at these sites, this element of The Devil Next Door is nothing short of rewriting history … I believe that this terrible mistake has been committed unintentionally.”
According to the BBC, Poland introduced laws criminalizing language implying Polish responsibility for the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany in 2018 with a penalty of a three-year jail term. Poland backed down from the law after an international outcry. More than six million Poles were killed during World War II, including up to three million Jews (of six million total), in the Holocaust.