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Historical inaccuracy and ‘human chess’ – Auschwitz Memorial slams Amazon’s Nazi-hunting series

Historical inaccuracy and ‘human chess’ – Auschwitz Memorial slams Amazon’s Nazi-hunting series
The Auschwitz Memorial in Poland has criticized Amazon’s ‘Hunters’ for sensationalizing the suffering of inmates at the notorious Nazi death camp, in particular a gruesome game of “human chess” depicted in the new series.

The horrors of the Holocaust are extensive and well documented. However, the writers of Amazon’s ‘Hunters’ evidently needed to make the systematic slaughter of Jews, Slavs, Gypsies and homosexuals even more comically macabre.

The show, which premiered on Amazon Prime on Saturday, stars Al Pacino as a Holocaust survivor turned Nazi hunter, tracking down German war criminals hiding in the US. Flitting between 1970s America and the death camps of World War II, the series claims to be “inspired by true events.”

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One scene features rows of prisoners standing on a life-sized chessboard, as Nazi guards call out moves. Should a ‘piece’ be bumped off the board, he or she is summarily murdered. Such a game never took place.

The Auschwitz Memorial in Poland reacted with anger. “Auschwitz was full of horrible pain and suffering,” the organization tweeted on Sunday. “Inventing a fake game of human chess… is not only dangerous foolishness & caricature. It also welcomes future deniers.”

Online, more commentators hammered Amazon for including the scene. “It’s as tasteless and lurid as 1970s Nazisploitation flicks,” journalist and historian Guy Walters tweeted. “Wasn’t it horrific enough?” asked Holocaust Educational Trust chief Karen Pollock.

‘Death chess’ scandal aside, ‘Hunters’ has been met with mixed reviews. Vox called it “heavy-handed, weakly written, [and] cringe-inducing.” The Guardian criticized it as a “dangerously insensitive” work that “fetishises the horrors of the Holocaust.” Verge said the show is “good at killing Nazis, and very bad at most other things.”

‘Hunters’ is not the first film or series to tack comic-book violence onto one of the 20th century’s defining tragedies. Released in 1975, ‘Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS’ turned the true story of Ilse Koch, the wife of the real-life commandant of Buchenwald concentration camp, into a blood-soaked and sexualized shocker movie.

The movie popularized the rumor that the Nazis made lampshades from the skin of their victims. After the real-life Ilse Koch was sentenced for war crimes, claims that she skinned victims for this purpose were found by a military court to be baseless. Still, the rumor has persisted to this day, with several collectors claiming to possess such gruesome artifacts.

“We prefer a true story that will lead to a million truths,” the Auschwitz Memorial added on Sunday. “One should not create a fake reality if the details about this reality are so well documented.”

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