The harrowing story behind Netflix’s new true crime docu ‘The Devil Next Door’

It’s a true story about concentration camp officer ‘Ivan the Terrible’

Netflix’s The Devil Next Door is the true story of John Demjanjuk, a man accused of being a Nazi concentration camp officer who enabled the deaths of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.

John was convicted twice of war crimes. He managed to overturn one conviction, and died before the second verdict was reached. His first verdict was overturned on the grounds the court may have mistaken his identity for somebody else.

But John Demjanjuk’s story is a mystery, as it was never confirmed if he truly was a Nazi concentration camp officer, or ‘Ivan the Terrible’, the nickname given to a brutal guard in the Holocaust.

Over five episodes, Netflix’s The Devil Next Door explores John Demjanjuk’s story, interviewing lawyers, family members and showing footage from the trial.

This is everything we know about The Devil Next Door:

The Devil Next Door

*Spoilers ahead* 

John Demjanjuk served in the Soviet Union Army

John Demjanjuk was born in Ukraine, and served in the Soviet Red Army.

He was prisoned in a labour camp

It’s been confirmed John was captured by the Nazis in 1942. From here, things get a bit hazy. John claims he was forced to work and fight for the Nazis, but other evidence suggests he volunteered himself to be a guard. It’s not clear what actually happened in the three years before the war ended in 1945.

It’s claimed John volunteered to work as a guard in two concentration camps

Evidence suggests John volunteered himself as a prisoner guard at Treblinka and Sobibor concentration camps in Poland.

John maintained that he never volunteered to be a prison guard, but instead that he was made to be a guard.

The Devil Next Door

He was nicknamed ‘Ivan the Terrible’

The court heard that prisoners of the camp nicknamed John ‘Ivan the Terrible’. Ivan the Terrible was a guard at the Treblinka, who cut off the nose and ears of Jews going to the gas chambers, and gained enjoyment from brutally hitting women and children. Survivors claim Ivan the Terrible was Ukrainian.

When John was put on trial, Eliyahu Rosenberg, a Treblinka survivor, said: “I say it unhesitatingly, without the slightest shadow of a doubt. It is Ivan from Treblinka, from the gas chambers, the man I am looking at now.”

After the war, John moved to the US and started working at Ford

In 1952, John moved to Cleveland. He married, had three children, and worked at Ford as a mechanic for over 20 years. His neighbours had no idea of his past.

The US revoked John’s citizenship and extradited him to Israel to stand trial

In 1981, John was extradited to Israel to stand trial for war crimes after the US became suspicious of his relation to the Nazis. After a long trial, he was found guilty in 1988.

Judges sentenced him to death, but he managed to overturn the ruling on the grounds that the court could have mistaken his identity for the real Ivan the Terrible.

The Devil Next Door

John on trial

He was tried again in 2009 in Germany for war crimes

John was allowed back into America, but he did not stay there for long. In 2009, the court ruled for John to be extradited again to Germany for war crimes, and as an accessory to murder of nearly 30,000 Jews.

With no surviving prisoners from the Sobibor concentration camp alive, evidence was hard to come by. The judges had to rely on what they had, including an SS identity card and other paperwork from the camps.

John was found guilty again, but died before going to prison

John was sentenced to five years in prison, but  John’s family appealed the decision. During this time, John died age 91.

The Devil Next Door is available to stream on Netflix now. 

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