tv

The Devil Next Door: The disturbing true story behind Netflix's gripping new documentary.

A new documentary series has landed on Netflix – and it’s been described as one of the most gripping shows to hit the streaming platform yet.

The Devil Next Door, which was released on November 4, tells the complicated story of John Demjanjuk – a Ukrainian immigrant who settled in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife following World War II.

In 1975, Demjanjuk was accused of being a former Nazi concentration camp guard.

At the time, a number of Holocaust survivors identified the retired mechanic as ‘Ivan the Terrible’ – a notoriously sadistic Ukrainian-born guard, who was responsible for the deaths of nearly a million Jews.

Watch the trailer for The Devil Next Door below. Post continues after video.

After the allegations were made, Demjanjuk’s American citizenship was revoked and in 1986, he was extradited to Israel where he faced trial for war crimes in a televised trial.

Along the way, Demjanjuk always maintained his innocence. But in 1988, he was found guilty by trial and sentenced to death (which was later overturned in 1993).

Now, five-part series The Devil Next Door is delving deeper into the controversial case.

Featuring interviews with Demjanjuk’s family members as well as the prosecution and defence team, the documentary attempts to answer whether John Demjanjuk was a monster – or just a victim of wrong identity.

Ahead of watching the series, here’s what you need to know about John Demjanjuk and Ivan the Terrible.

Who was John Demjanjuk?

ivan the terrible the devil next door
John Demjanjuk on trial. Image: Getty.
ADVERTISEMENT

John Demjanjuk was born in 1920 in Ukraine.

During his early years, Demjanjuk survived famine in the 1930s, before being drafted into the Soviet Union army in 1940.

In 1942, it's believed Demjanjuk was captured by the Nazis. But from then until the end of the war in 1945, it's unclear where Demjanjuk was located or what he was doing.

Although Demjanjuk claims he was a prisoner at a labour camp, there's also conflicting evidence that Demjanjuk was in fact a Nazi guard at the notorious Treblinka and Sobibor camps in German-occupied Poland.

Following the end of World War II, the Ukrainian emigrated to the United States with his wife in 1952, where he worked at a Ford Motor plant. He had three children and was known as a church-going family man.

After two decades in the United States, however, Demjanjuk was placed on a list of naturalised Americans suspected of having connections to the Nazis.

After being identified by a number of Holocaust survivors as Ivan the Terrible, Demjanjuk was eventually extradited to Israel, where his trial began in 1987.

ivan the terrible the devil next door
John Demjanjuk had three children and was known as a church-going family man. Image: Getty.
ADVERTISEMENT

"I say it unhesitatingly, without the slightest shadow of a doubt," one survivor of Treblinka, Eliyahu Rosenberg, said. "It is Ivan from Treblinka, from the gas chambers, the man I am looking at now… I saw his eyes, I saw those murderous eyes."

In 1988, he was found guilty by trial and sentenced to death – but the Israeli Supreme Court later overturned the decision in 1993 after another possible Ukrainian was named as Ivan the Terrible.

Although Demjanjuk did regain his US citizenship after being acquitted, it was later revoked when new allegations arose about his potential involvement in the murder of 30,000 Jews at another concentration camp, Sobibor.

During the trial, which took place in Germany, no surviving witnesses could place Demjanjuk as being at Sobibor. Despite this, the prosecution were able to rely on an SS identity card to prosecute the former mechanic.

In 2011, Demjanjuk was found guilty as an accessory to the murder of 28,060 Jews at Sobibor. He was sentenced to five years in prison, minus the two he had already served during the trial.

The next year, in 2012, Demjanjuk died in a German nursing home, shortly after his family had launched an appeal. He was 91 years old.

Who was Ivan the Terrible?

ivan the terrible the devil next door
Ivan the Terrible was based at the Treblinka camp in German-occupied Poland, where nearly a million Jews were killed. Image: Netflix.
ADVERTISEMENT

Ivan the Terrible was no ordinary camp guard.

The Ukrainian-born concentration camp guard was based at the Treblinka camp in German-occupied Poland, where nearly a million Jews were killed.

The guard, who operated the two tank engines that fed the gas chambers, was known at Treblinka as Ivan the Terrible due to the pleasure he took in torturing men, women and children before they entered the gas chambers. He was also known for his incredible cruelty – even cutting off the ears of workers when they walked past.

During Demjanjuk's trial, Yehiel Reichman, a survivor who testified at the trial in Israel after losing four of his siblings at Treblinka, described Ivan the Terrible as "the worst devil of all at Treblinka".

The Devil Next Door is available to watch on Netflix now.

For more on this topic:


Sign up for our weekly "TV and Movies" newsletter. Every week, our Entertainment Editor Laura Brodnik gives you a backstage pass to the best movies, TV shows and celebrity interviews.


Been listening to That’s Incredible? Tell us what you think.

MMSurvey
00:00 / ???