Netflix will amend elements of its documentary series “The Devil Next Door” after the Polish prime minister and others complained to CEO Reed Hastings about the show, which centers on the trial of John Demjanjuk who was accused of being a notorious Ukrainian concentration camp guard known as Ivan the Terrible.
Polish premier Mateusz Morawiecki wrote a strongly worded letter to Hastings last Sunday contending that the series was inaccurate. Central to his complaint were maps seen in the series that place Nazi concentration camps such as Auschwitz within the borders of modern-day Poland. Screen shots of the maps were shared on social media.
Netflix acknowledged the complaint and said it was investigating. The U.S. streamer now says that it will amend the series by adding on-screen text, likely below the maps, to spell out the fact that the death camps sat in territory occupied by the Nazis.
The producers had used representations of maps that appeared in U.S. and Israeli TV coverage of Demjanjuk’s trial in the 1980s. The addition of on-screen text spelling out the wider context will likely take a few days to put into effect.
“We are hugely proud of ‘The Devil Next Door’ and stand by its filmmakers, their research and their work,” Netflix said in a statement issued to Variety. “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, [which] invaded the country and occupied it from 1939-1945.”
“The Devil Next Door” is a One Man Show and Submarine Deluxe Production in association with Yes Studios. It is produced and directed by Yossi Bloch and Daniel Sivan. The series is a Netflix Original and available in more than 200 countries on its global platform.
A source said the streamer had not made a direct concession to the Polish premier but acknowledged that elements of the series needed clarifying. The source added that while Netflix and its producers are generally reluctant to amend their work, it was the right thing to do in this instance.
In his letter to Hastings, Morawiecki wrote: “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.”
Poland has long been sensitive about its suggested role in the Holocaust and has vigorously tried to suppress the use of the phrase “Polish death camps,” pointing out that Poland was no longer a sovereign state after the Nazis invaded. Last year, the Polish government passed a law making it a criminal offense to accuse Poland of complicity in German atrocities. The law was rolled back somewhat after the U.S. and Israel publicly criticized it.