What if someone were going about their daily lives only to discover they were living next door to one of the perpetrators of the most heinous event in world history — the Holocaust?
For John Demjanjuk’s neighbors, that was what happened. This Nazi guard turned model American citizen was hiding in plain sight. However, he wouldn’t be able to hide from the shadow of the concentration camps where he had been a willing participant in the torture of its victims.
In Netflix’s The Devil Next Door, most of this comes to light, but who exactly was John Demjanjuk? Here is everything to know about John Demjanjuk, the man known as “Ivan the Terrible.”
Who is John Demjanjuk from The Devil Next Door?
According to the Holocaust Encyclopedia, almost 30 years after World War 2 ended, Demjanjuk’s crimes caught up with him, and his trials would begin.
It was hard to untangle the threads of his role in the historical event that would end an (under) estimated 11 million lives according to Do Something, crimes that he was called to account by multiple countries.
As far as John Demjanjuk is concerned, his past was about to collide with his future. His trial was the last of the famous Nuremberg Trials, where members of the Nazi party were held accountable for the events of World War 2, according to the Holocaust encyclopedia.
His first trial was in Israel in 1987 shortly after the American government stripped him of his rights as a citizen when they discovered his role in the Nazi death machine and concentration camps (namely Treblinka). Interestingly, he was one of the first to be tried in Israel.
The other, Adolf Eichmann, was executed for his crimes. John Demjanjuk was called “Ivan the Terrible” by victims of his cruelty because he seemed to take such pleasure in helping operate the gas chambers that would lead generations of families to their deaths.
The Russian could no longer pretend to be an average American citizen when his SS ID card provided absolute proof of his Nazi sympathies.
Since he was initially a POW, John Demjanjuk claimed it was a forgery, and he had never believed in his captors Nazi doctrine. His cries of innocence fell on deaf ears when multiple tests and witnesses were able to prove the documents were real.
More About John Demjanjuk from The Devil Next Door
Tattoos can be a bad idea, especially if they link you to a criminal enterprise, and for Demjanjuk, one with his blood type (in case he needed saving on the front lines) would be his downfall. Why? This simple tattoo was a common practice among the Nazi’s most elite officials.
After this tattoo led to a death sentence in an Israeli court, Demjanjuk fought for his life. After the Soviet Union came crashing down, more information came to light about a guard who used a different name.
Even though the witnesses swore John Demjanjuk and “Ivan the Terrible” was the same man, he could now win an appeal based on the bane of all prosecutors — reasonable doubt.
After this, the United States restored his American citizenship until evidence came to light on other charges related to his actions with the Nazi regime.
When his role as head of a band of the Nazi’s most powerful death squads came to light, alongside multiple other camp guardianship duties, he finally lost the precious right to be called an American citizen ever again.
That’s when Demjanjuk began to lose what remained of his comfortable life. He was supposed to return to Russia, but Germany decided to hold him to account for his evil actions as well.
The German government held him responsible for 28,000 counts of accessory to murder due to his role in the concentration camps.
Still, true justice would never happen for his victims because upon his conviction, his sentence was a measly five years, served after he filed any appeal he wanted to. After his release from the judiciary system, he died waiting on a review of those appeals in a nursing home.
According to The New York Times, one of the most shocking things about John Demjanjuk was the fact that he was not only one of the evilest men in world history, but that the man known as “Ivan the Terrible” to many was also a father.
And as far as his son is concerned, there is no way his father is the man the world thinks he is. John Demjanjuk’s son goes so far as to say that his father’s death without the opportunity to exhaust all his appeals means he is legally considered innocent, at least in the eyes of his son.
John Demjanjuk also has two daughters and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Family man or devil in disguise, John Demjanjuk or “Ivan The Terrible,” this man of multiple identities played a horrible role in one of history’s most horrifying tragedies.
The Devil Next Door is now streaming on Netflix.