In quite recent times Netflix have led the way in creating some truly gripping and informative documentaries. Over the past year I’ve kind of become obsessed with the stack of true crime programs that the now giant of streaming has to offer. Even though many of these stories are harrowing, chilling and disturbing; I find myself fascinated sometimes.
Last week I came across a new release and at the time it appeared in the #1 trending thingy that Netflix have recently introduced – a feature somewhat better than ‘stuff you might like’ – in terms of television shows and their popularity the masses don’t lie most of the time.
‘The Devil Next Door’ happened to be sitting in that #1 trending spot and the trailer began playing before I could do anything and I was instantly hooked on the premise. That premise being the story of John Demjanjuk a retired Ukrainian who lived in America and was an American citizen until he was arrested for being identified as a Nazi war criminal.
Even now the subject matter is pretty heavy and to this day there isn’t a definitive answer why so many Jewish people lost their lives in what was a mass extermination during world war two. For me, even thinking about it and how much those people suffered is enough to first make me angry and then upset. So some of this 5 part documentary not only covers some harrowing subjects but it also shows some footage of what is probably just the tip of a sinister iceberg – this one isn’t for the sensitive types.
John Demjanjuk or ‘Ivan the terrible’ as he used to be known as while working in Nazi death camps finds himself extradited to Israel and what unfolds is a lengthy court case which could lead to conviction and possibly execution. The whole thing is spread out over a long time and throughout I found myself asking have they got the right guy here? Evidence isn’t as definitive as it would be today and this court case took place in the 80’s. Photo’s of him as a younger man are from identification papers from the world war era and it’s obvious to see he’s a lot older. This is just one of the many variables in what is a gripping account of court room footage and angst amongst the people this man might have committed vile acts against.
The whole morale dilemma runs parallel to a battle of identity along with right versus wrong. If this is the right guy should they be entitled to execute him? Would letting him live be a compassionate act that rises above what all of those people suffered? Should the court case have taken place on neutral ground? The whole concept is layered intricately with these questions and a roller coaster ride that I couldn’t look away from. The outcome might come as a shock which I won’t share but recommend you watch.
The Devil Next Door is an enduring watch with a heavy subject matter, a subject matter that history cannot and will not ignore, it’s graphic in some places but it has to be because what we are shown is nowhere near as bad as what the real people suffered. It’s dramatic and even shocking in places but will hold your attention throughput.