‘Terrible mistake’? Polish PM slams Netflix over documentary implying Poland shared responsibility for Nazi crimes

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Netflix is “urgently” looking into complaints from Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki that a new Holocaust documentary is “rewriting history” by implying that Poland shared responsibility for death camp murders on its soil.

Morawiecki is pressuring the US streaming giant to modify the documentary, which shows the World War II-era Nazi death camps on a map of Poland, but drawn inside the country’s modern borders. 

In a letter to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, the Polish PM said that the map shown in the documentary series ‘The Devil Next Door’ implies that Poland existed as an independent nation and thus shared responsibility for Holocaust atrocities — a subject Poland’s nationalist government is sensitive about.

“There is no comment or any explanation whatsoever that these sites were German-operated,” the letter reads. Morawiecki claims that since his country “did not even exist” as an independent state at the time and since millions of Poles were murdered at the death camps, the documentary is therefore “hugely inaccurate” and “nothing short of rewriting history.” 

The Polish camps were indeed built by the Nazis during the German occupation and while many Poles risked their lives to help Jews, others participated in the Holocaust themselves — a fact confirmed by Holocaust historians, but which many Poles do not accept and which Morawiecki seems to have left out of his letter. 

Morawiecki said he believes the “terrible mistake” was committed “unintentionally” but hopes that it can be corrected “as soon as possible” — either by altering the map or offering further explanation to viewers.

Last year, a war of words broke out between Poland and Israel after Warsaw brought in legislation which would have imposed jail sentences on anyone who dared suggest that Poles were complicit in Holocaust crimes committed on its soil. Under the proposed legislation, prison time would have been handed down even for using a phrase like “Polish death camps.” The bill, which critics said whitewashed history and curtailed free speech, was later softened and the possibility of a prison sentence removed.

‘The Devil Next Door’ follows the life of Ukrainian-born John Demjanjuk, a Nazi death camp guard, who was convicted by a German court in 2011 as an accessory to the murder of 27,000 Jews at the Sobibor camp in Poland. Netflix told Reuters that it was aware of the concerns regarding the documentary and was “urgently looking into the matter.”