Around the same time that Stephen King released his 1982 novella, Apt Pupil — in which a teen accuses a neighborhood man of being a Nazi criminal — a real-life alleged former Nazi was uncovered in Cleveland, Ohio. Retired Ukranian-American autoworker John Demjanjuk, a family man, found himself accused of being Ivan the Terrible, one of the most notorious concentration-camp guards of the Holocaust.
Netflix tells Demjanjuk’s story in The Devil Next Door, a new docuseries premiering on November 4th. It covers the initial accusation by Holocaust survivors, his 1986 extradition to Israel to stand trial, and the media frenzy that followed. “As the case uncovers dark corners of memory and the horrors of war, the Demjanjuk case becomes a race against time for the defendant and his alleged victims,” according to the streaming service.
Demjanjuk died in 2012 at age 91, the New York Times reports, at which time he was appealing a guilty verdict in Germany. He had previously been put on trial in Israel and was convicted in 1988 for crimes against humanity, sentenced to hang. Five years later, though, the conviction was overturned when it looked like another man could possibly be the notorious Ivan. He was then deported to Germany in 2009, where he was tried for the killing of 27,900 Jews at the Sobibor camp in German-occupied Poland in 1943. He was found guilty in 2011, but he died a year later.
His son, John Demjanjuk Jr., told the Times that his father died “a victim and a survivor of Soviet and German brutality. History will show Germany used him as a scapegoat to blame helpless Ukrainian P.O.W.’s for the deeds of Nazi Germans.”