Directed by Yossi Bloch and Daniel Silvan
Was John Demjanjuk the murderous Ivan the Terrible, who worked the gas chambers at the Nazi death camp Treblinka, or was he a victim of misidentification? That’s the question at the center of this five-part Netflix documentary series.
Demjanjuk was a retired autoworker living in Cleveland, Ohio, when first identified as a former Nazi. American authorities handed him over to Israel to stand trial. The trial itself took a year. There was plenty of evidence both for and against his guilt. But the story doesn’t end with the verdict.
As someone who writes about wrongful convictions, I found myself wavering on Demjanjuk’s guilt or innocence. Treblinka survivors were adamant in their identification. But the defense was able to offer compelling evidence pointing toward his innocence.
Later in the series, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, there is compelling evidence pointing to Demjanjuk’s innocence. But a closer examination of that evidence convinced me that he was indeed Ivan the Terrible. You can make up your mind yourself.