The Devil Next Door

The Devil Next Door Review

by E. Andreassen

**** 4 Stars

The Devil Next Door is a compelling delivery of the emotional and delicate topic of the traumatic events of the Holocaust yet successfully steers the documentary in a manner that it still functions as a useful piece of educational material

The Devil Next Door is a true crime documentary recently introduced to Netflix in 2019, directed by Yossi Bloch and Daniel Sivan. The mini-series follows the story of a Ukrainian immigrant named John Demjanjuk; Demjanjuk was a well-respected auto-plant mechanic and grandfather living in Cleveland before being accused of concealing his identity as a former Nazi prison guard nicknamed Ivan the Terrible. The documentary transports the audience back in time to witness the historical trial and conviction of Demjanjuk, leaving behind a trail of seemingly unanswered questions.

The Devil Next Door is a comprehensive retelling of a story that holds such a vast emotional weight and impact, through the recollection of Holocaust survivors and victims, that are sure to leave the viewer feeling empathetic and sorrowful. However, the series is delivered in a way that allows one to distance themselves from the emotional aspect of the recollection and review the case with a sceptical lens, much like that of the member of a jury.

The evidence presented and the depiction of events from both sides is what prevents the documentary from becoming a simple retelling and instead establishes a similar dynamic of a court hearing. This also allows for the viewer to come to their own individual conclusions as the documentary itself does not follow a strict formula to that of other true crime documentaries. A guilty verdict of Demjanjuk is not the end-goal of the series. Instead, the directors seem to have the objective of creating further legal debate on the battle over Demjanjuk’s conviction and the political conspiracy following Ivan the Terrible’s dark legacy. However, while the documentary sets out to answer these questions, viewers are left unsatisfied to realise that they are left with more questions than answers, only allowing Demjanjuk’s Grandson to justify his potential actions as a desperate need to “survive.”

It is also worth mentioning that the series is also successful in considering the damaging effects that the trial had on all personnel. For example, the involvement of O’Connor and Sheftel as the ruthless defence, although having contributed massively to the outcome of the trial, suffered relentless persecution from their families and the press and the documentary provides an informative insight into the struggles of Demjanjuk’s trial on a local and nationally wide scale.  

Overall, The Devil Next Door is a compelling delivery of the emotional and delicate topic of the traumatic events of the Holocaust yet successfully steers the documentary in a manner that it still functions as a useful piece of educational material for those looking to delve into political injustice and political conspiracy.

The Devil Next Door is currently available on Netflix and was rated 15 by the BBFC.

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