Amazon show’s fictional Nazi atrocities could fuel Holocaust denial, critics say

Amazon show’s fictional Nazi atrocities could fuel Holocaust denial, critics say

‘Hunters’ starring Al Pacino particularly slammed for scene in which Auschwitz inmates forced to kill each other in chess game; creator says show never purported to be documentary

A still from 'Hunters,' a new series by Amazon. (Courtesy Amazon Studios)
A still from 'Hunters,' a new series by Amazon. (Courtesy Amazon Studios)

Amazon has come under fire for its new Nazi-hunting drama series, with critics saying its fictitious depictions of Nazi atrocities could give rise to Holocaust denial.

The museum of the Auschwitz death camp objected particularly to a scene in “Hunters,” the show about a fictional postwar hunt in New York for Nazi war criminals starring Al Pacino, that shows a murderous game of human chess being played, insisting that no such thing took place at the camp.

It said inventing fake scenes is “dangerous foolishness and caricature,” encourages Holocaust deniers and is disrespectful of the camp’s more than 1 million victims.

Museum spokesman Pawel Sawicki said Monday that authors and artists have a special obligation to tell the truth about Auschwitz, and that the “Hunters” authors did not contact the museum for facts.

Pawel Sawicki, spokesman for the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, speaks about the ‘Auschwitz: Not long ago, Not far away’ exhibit, at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, in New York, May 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

The show includes a scene in which inmates are figures in a chess game, some of them naked, and forced to kill each other.

“This is false. There was no such thing,” Sawicki said.

The movie talks about a place where human suffering, pain and tragedy are very well-documented and the facts should be adhered to, Sawicki said.

The chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust told the BBC that such fictionalizations could give fuel to Holocaust denial, saying also that it lent an air of “flippant entertainment” to the show.

“We have a real responsibility to protect the truth of the Holocaust,” said Karen Pollack, “particularly as we’re moving away from living history, the survivors are few and frailer.”

As a review of the show on The Times of Israel last week stated of the chess scene: “It’s a fairly typical horror movie sequence but, honestly, weren’t the crimes of Auschwitz enough? Do you have to dress up Auschwitz of all places with silly exploitation movie tropes? And if you do want to go that route, how are we supposed to take the other would-be touching scenes at the camps seriously?”

A still from ‘Hunters,’ a new series by Amazon. (Courtesy Amazon Studios)

The show’s creator David Weil, whose grandmother was a Holocaust survivor, responded to the criticism on Sunday, according to Variety, saying that “it is not documentary. And it was never purported to be.”

Weil said that “symbolic representations provide individuals access to an emotional and symbolic reality that allows us to better understand the experiences of the Shoah.”

Chief Nazi-hunter of the US-based Jewish rights group Simon Wiesenthal Centre, Efraim Zuroff, during an interview with The Times of Israel on Wednesday, August 17, 2017 (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

“After all, it is true that Nazis perpetrated widespread and extreme acts of sadism and torture – and even incidents of cruel ‘games’ – against their victims. I simply did not want to depict those specific, real acts of trauma.”

Real-life Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff, whose work has led to the trials of more than 40 Nazis and their collaborators, and who is still working to bring Nazi criminals to justice, also weighed into the argument.

“I haven’t seen the Amazon Prime series ‘The Hunters’ yet, but have [seen] many reviews, all of which reinforce my sense that the series does not accurately reflect what contemporary Nazi-hunting is all about. I should know!!” he wrote on Facebook.

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