Why Poland doesn’t like this Netflix series


WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland wrote a letter to the head of Netflix complaining of “historical inaccuracies” in its series “The Devil Next Door.”

The series is about the decades-long postwar trial of John Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian guard who earned the nickname “Ivan the Terrible” at the Treblinka death camp.

In one episode, a map is shown detailing where Nazi camps were located in modern Poland, which according to the letter from Morawiecki to CEO Reed Hastings does not reflect the true nature of these places, created and run by the Germans during the war. Polish politicians routinely push for the usage of terms such as “Nazi-occupied Poland” to emphasize that Poland did not set up the concentration camps.

The letter said that “6 million of our citizens — Polish, Jewish and many other ethnicities — fell victim to the German Nazi regime of terror.”

In fact, there were about 4.8 million “Polish victims,” including 3 million Jews. Historian Marcin Zaremba in his book “Great Fear” discussed how the communist Polish authorities falsified the number of Polish victims in order to “elevate it to the Jewish level.”

John Demjanjuk seen on trial in Jerusalem, Aug. 14, 1991. (Esaias Baitel/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Morawiecki also said that “Poland was the only Nazi-occupied country, where one faced the death penalty for hiding Jews,” which also is not in line with historians’ findings because the death penalty for helping Jews also was introduced in other countries of occupied Eastern Europe — in the German-occupied territory of Belarus, Ukraine, the Baltic States and parts of the USSR.

The prime minister emphasized in the letter that the map used in the Netflix series is “not only incorrect, but it deceives viewers into believing that Poland was responsible for establishing and maintaining these camps, and for committing the crimes therein.”

Morawiecki expressed the hope that Netflix will fix the error “as soon as possible.”

The map used in the series comes from British press materials from 1985.

In 2018, Poland introduced an amendment to the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance that made it a crime to accuse Poland of complicity in the Holocaust punishable by up to three years in prison. An amendment later scrapped the prison sentence.

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