Hunters: Jewish groups criticise Holocaust portrayal in Amazon show

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Some 1.1 million people were killed by the Nazis at Auschwitz

Several Jewish groups have criticised Amazon for fictitious depictions of the Holocaust in its new series Hunters.

The online retail giant has also been denounced for allowing the sale of anti-Semitic propaganda books.

David Weil, the producer of Hunters, has defended the series and Amazon said it was “listening to feedback” about controversial book sales.

Hunters, a 10-part drama series, follows a team of Nazi hunters in 1970s America.

The show, starring Al Pacino, has been accused of bad taste and “Jewsploitation” for its depiction of fictional atrocities during the Holocaust. Around six million Jews were killed across Nazi-occupied Europe during the period from 1941-45.

In one scene, inmates of Auschwitz concentration camp are forced to kill each other while being used in a game of human chess.

Mr Weil, whose grandmother was a Holocaust survivor, said while Hunters was “inspired by true events”, it was not a documentary series and never purported to be.

He said he decided to fictionalise events in the series because he did not want to misrepresent the suffering of real people.

“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,” Mr Weil said.

“If the larger philosophical question is, can we ever tell stories about the Holocaust that are not documentary? I believe we can and should.”

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Auschwitz Memorial, a charity that maintains the former camp as a historical site, accused the programme makers of “inventing a fake game of human chess” in an act of “dangerous foolishness”.

Karen Pollack, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, told the BBC such portrayals risked fuelling Holocaust denial, and lent a tone of “flippant entertainment” to the programme.

“We have a real responsibility to protect the truth of the Holocaust,” said Mrs Pollack, “particularly as we’re moving away from living history, the survivors are few and frailer.”

“We can’t do this alone,” she added. “We have to rely on other people in society who want to do good.”

About 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, were murdered at Auschwitz.

Read more about the Holocaust:

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Media caption“I was a skeleton” – Henri Kichka lost his whole family in Auschwitz

Survivors and international leaders gathered at the former camp last month to commemorate the 75th anniversary of its liberation by Soviet forces.

Amazon has recently come under fire for selling anti-Semitic books, including The Jewish Question in the Classroom by Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher.

On Friday, Auschwitz Memorial retweeted a letter, written by the Holocaust Educational Trust, asking Amazon to remove books by Streicher from sale.

“When you decide to make a profit on selling vicious antisemitic Nazi propaganda published without any critical comment or context, you need to remember that those words led not only to the #Holocaust but also many other hate crimes,” it said.

“As a bookseller, we are mindful of book censorship throughout history, and we do not take this lightly,” Amazon said in response. It added that it was investing “significant time and resources” in ensuring products on sale met its guidelines.

In December, after complaints by Auschwitz Memorial, Amazon withdrew several items from its website, including Christmas decorations depicting Auschwitz.

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