Amazon Prime Video recently debuted its latest original series to a decidedly mixed reception from viewers and critics.
Al Pacino stars in Hunters, a pulpy series set in 1970s New York City following a group of people who track down Nazis living in the United States.
Although the series claims to be “inspired by true events,” viewers have questioned just how much of the show is fictionalised.
Is Hunters a true story?
Hunters presents a heightened version of 1970s America, where Nazis are plotting to implement a fourth reich with the help of a spy they have planted in the United States’ government.
Following the end of World War II, some Nazi war criminals were able to evade capture and hide in countries around the world including the United States, but beyond that the story of Hunters is a work of fiction.
The series has been the subject of controversy for its flashback scenes that depict concentration camps, including the infamous Auschwitz.
More than one million people were killed in that camp alone, with the total Holocaust death toll reaching around six million, but Hunters depicts certain incidents that never actually occurred.
Most notably, the first episode features a sadistic Nazi officer who forces Jewish prisoners to kill each other while acting out a real-life game of chess.
The Auschwitz Memorial charity criticised the scene on Twitter, calling it “dangerous foolishness and caricature” that “welcomes future deniers.”
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
Hunters creator David Weil defended the scene to BBC News: “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.
“If the larger philosophical question is, can we ever tell stories about the Holocaust that are not documentary? I believe we can and should.”
Are the Hunters characters based on real people?
In the years since the Second World War, numerous people have taken it upon themselves to track down Nazi war criminals, but their practices varied wildly to that of Amazon Prime’s band of hunters.
Their efforts were focused on bringing the criminals to justice in a court of law, rather than simply murdering them as the characters in Hunters usually do.
The most famous of these hunters was Simon Wiesenthal, a Holocaust survivor who went on to assist in the capture of more than one thousand Nazis.
However, Wiesenthal is not depicted in Hunters and it would be difficult to argue any of the show’s characters represent him specifically.
The fictional team includes married couple Mindy and Murray Markowitz (portrayed by Carol Kane and Saul Rubinek), who could have been inspired by cases of real-life husband-and-wife Nazi hunters.
For example, Beate and Serge Klarsfeld have been honoured for their work bringing war criminals to justice, including former Gestapo leader Klaus Barbie who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1987.
Generally, Amazon Prime’s Hunters doesn’t offer a particularly accurate portrayal of the Holocaust or the people who later tracked down its perpetrators.
Hunters is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video