Poland asks Netflix to change documentary about Nazi death camp guard

Country fears 'The Devil Next Door'' rewrites history and does not explain camps were built and run by Nazis

People watch veterans driving past during celebrations on the National Independence Day in Warsaw, Poland November 11, 2019. Slawomir Kaminski/Agencja Gazeta via REUTERS  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. POLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN POLAND.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has pressed Netflix, the US streaming and production company, to make changes to a documentary that includes a map showing Nazi death camps inside the borders of modern Poland.

The camps were built by the Nazis on Polish soil during their brutal occupation of Poland in the Second World War, but the map used in the documentary, Mr Morawiecki said, implies that Poland existed at that time as an independent nation within its postwar borders and thus could share responsibility for the atrocities.

The map appears in a Netflix documentary series entitled The Devil Next Door that chronicles the story of John Demjanjuk, a retired US carworker convicted by a German court in 2011 of having been a Nazi death camp guard during the war.

"There is no comment or any explanation whatsoever that these sites [on the map] were German-operated," Mr Morawiecki said in a letter to Reed Hastings, chief executive of Netflix.

"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," he said.

Morawiecki said he believed the mistake was unintentional and that the company would swiftly correct it, either by modifying the map or providing further explanation to viewers.

A Netflix spokesperson told Reuters: "We are aware of the concerns regarding The Devil Next Door and are urgently looking into the matter."

Poland is sensitive to suggestions that it might share any complicity in Nazi crimes committed on its territory.

The ruling nationalist Law and Justice party last year passed a law allowing courts to jail anybody who made such a suggestion, though it later watered down the legislation under US pressure to remove the possibility of a prison term.

Poland was home to one of the world's biggest Jewish communities before it was almost wiped out by the Nazis.

During decades of Soviet-imposed Communist rule after the Second World War, Poles were taught to believe that, with a few exceptions, the nation had conducted itself honourably during a war that killed a fifth of the population.

Many Poles still refuse to accept research showing that thousands of Poles participated in the Holocaust in addition to the thousands who risked their lives to help the Jews.

A German court convicted Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk in 2011 pending appeal as an accessory to the murder of 27,000 Jews at the Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland.

He died in 2012 in a German nursing home, aged 91, before his appeal could be heard.