True crime fans have a new dark obsession; an intense new documentary series called The Devil Next Door.
The latest addition to Netlfix’s true crime armada just dropped (4th November) on the streaming service and is already causing quite a stir amongst viewers, with critics and social media users alike describing it as “gripping”, “chilling” and “harrowing”.
The five-part series resurrects the disturbing true story of “family man” John Demjanjuk, aka “Ivan the Terrible”.
In the 1980s, Demjanjuk was a retired Ukrainian-American mechanic living out his golden year with his family in the suburbs of Cleveland. That all came to a screeching halt when a group of Holocaust survivors identified Demjanjuk’s as “Ivan the Terrible” from a Nazi identity card.
“Ivan the Terrible” was a notoriously cruel, Nazi death camp guard who tortured and killed nearly one million Jewish prisoners during World War II. Following the accusation, 66-year-old Demjanjuk was immediately extradited to Israel to stand trial for crimes against humanity.
During the course of the trial in the late ’80s, Israel became transfixed by the story of John Demjanjuk aka “Ivan the Terrible” and “a media frenzy” soon turned Jerusalem on its head as “the trial of the century” progressed.
“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.”
Throughout the trial, Demjanjuk maintained his innocence – as did his family – but in the end, he was found guilty by trial and sentenced to death by hanging in 1988. But, in a huge twist to this true tale, his sentence was later overturned due to “reasonable doubt” over whether John Demjanjuk and “Ivan the Terrible” were in fact one and the same.
I won’t ruin the whole series for those who are completely new to the story, but in short, after some further twists in this tale, Demjanjuk was sent back to the US, and then in 2002 was extradited to Germany to stand trial again. He was sentenced to five years in prison at a 2009 trial in Munich. He was formally charged in Germany with “27,900 counts of being an accessory to murder”. Demjanjuk continued to appeal until the day he died in 2012 , age 91. Below is a picture of Demjanjuk shortly before he died.
The series does not disappoint; featuring interviews with Demjanjuk’s family, the prosecution, the defence and plenty of footage from inside the court room. It’s gritty, it’s raw, it’s tragic, it’s distressing and it’s certainly got people talking.
Naturally, reactions have set Twitter ablaze, with true crime fans from across the world sharing their opinions on this harrowing story.
This one’s not for the faint-hearted.
Not enough? Check out our list of ’10 Terrifying Netflix Documentaries That Are Way Scarier Than Any Horror Film’.
Images via Getty and Netflix
Having worked in children's media and publishing for almost a decade, Ben is thoroughly excited to now be able to swear in stories and features. He is such a big fan of Disney and Horror films that he started an LGBTQ+ podcast called 'Once Upon A Scream'. His mum listens.