Amazon Prime’s revisionist historical drama “Hunters” premiered February 21 and stirred up controversy over its debut weekend due to a fictional scene set at the Auschwitz death camp. The scene in question centers around an imagined killing game designed around a human chess board where Jewish prisoners are the pieces and Nazi officers are the players. When it’s time to knock a chess piece off the board, the prisoner is shot dead. The scene was condemned on social media by the official Auschwitz Memorial, who called the show’s decision to depict a fictionalized death game in a real historical setting dangerous and foolish.
“Auschwitz was full of horrible pain and suffering documented in the accounts of survivors,” the Auschwitz Memorial posted on Twitter. “Inventing a fake game of human chess for ‘Hunters’ is not only dangerous foolishness and caricature. It also welcomes future deniers. We honor the victims by preserving factual accuracy.”
The Auschwitz memorial went on to criticize the “Hunters” scene as “disrespectful and dangerous,” prompting a personal response from “Hunters” creator David Weil. In a statement to Deadline, Weil said that “while ‘Hunters’ is a dramatic narrative series, with largely fictional characters, it is inspired by true events. But it is not documentary. And it was never purported to be. In creating this series it was most important for me to consider what I believe to be the ultimate question and challenge of telling a story about the Holocaust: how do I do so without borrowing from a real person’s specific life or experience?”
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Weil defended the human chess scene by writing, “This is a fictionalized event. Why did I feel this scene was important to script and place in series? To most powerfully counteract the revisionist narrative that whitewashes Nazi perpetration, by showcasing the most extreme — and representationally truthful — sadism and violence that the Nazis perpetrated against the Jews and other victims. And why did I feel the need to create a fictional event when there were so many real horrors that existed? 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.”
Read Weil’s full statement on Deadline’s website. The first season of “Hunters” is now streaming on Amazon Prime.
Auschwitz was full of horrible pain & suffering documented in the accounts of survivors. Inventing a fake game of human chess for @huntersonprime is not only dangerous foolishness & caricature. It also welcomes future deniers. We honor the victims by preserving factual accuracy. pic.twitter.com/UM2KYmA4cw
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) February 23, 2020