Released on Amazon Prime on February 21, the ten-episode first season of Hunters has entered the news cycle and not always under the best circumstances. The Auschwitz Memorial, which preserves the site of the former German Nazi Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp, came out criticizing the program, in particular its depiction of fictitious events at the site during World War II.
While the Memorial has at least indicated to many viewers to take much of the series with a grain of salt, it may not be clear to everyone what aspects of the program are actually true to life and which were completely made up to aid the fictional plot.
10 Fact – Operation Paperclip
Agent Morris, of the FBI, stumbles upon a secret government program to bring high ranking Nazis (particularly those who are engineers and scientists) to the United States at the end of World War II. This government program, dubbed Operation Paperclip, did exist.
Over 1,000 Nazis and their families were brought to the US in hopes that their knowledge would benefit the country during the Cold War. Many of the German scientists had their files and backgrounds whitewashed in advance so that neither the public nor other members of the government, could argue against their relocation.
9 Fabrication – The Wolf
Al Pacino’s Meyer Offerman makes it very clear that the number one Nazi on his own personal hit list is “The Wolf” an infamous doctor who tortured Offerman while he was a prisoner at Auschwitz during the war.
While there were many infamous and evil Nazi doctors during the war, including at Auschwitz itself (see Josef Mengele) The Wolf is a creation of the Hunters program as is his treatment of Meyer in the show’s flashbacks. Mengele, in reality, was a doctor who had a particularly inhumane fascination with twins.
8 Fact – Swiss Banks
While Switzerland claimed it was neutral during World War II, that didn’t stop the country from dealing with the Nazi regime on a financial basis. Switzerland laundered hundreds of millions in money and assets that Nazi officials had plundered from their Jewish victims, as well as money stolen from banks in German-occupied territories.
The Swiss opposed the idea of returning assets at the end of the war and very few survivors ever saw their families money or possessions ever again.
7 Fabrication – Underground Hoard of Valuables
While the harm the Swiss Banks did and continued to so, during World War II and beyond is factual the underground hoard of valuables presented beneath the Swiss Bank in New York City in Hunters is, again, a fabrication in the story of the show.
An underground collection of stolen Jewish money and heirlooms was never discovered on American soil. Again, the idea is based on real-world atrocities, but the details of the location and the event are pure fiction in the program.
6 Fact – Hunters
While the vigilante group based in New York is a fiction there were groups and agencies that made it their mission after World War II and the Holocaust had ended to hunt down former Nazis to exact both revenge and find justice. Mossad, Israel’s secret service agency, spent many of its early years seeking out known Nazi war criminals who had escaped justice, many having left Europe altogether for the anonymity of countries like Argentina.
It was Mossad who found Adolph Eichmann and brought him to trial in Israel. Directly after the war there was also a group later known as Nakam (Hebrew for “revenge”) who sought to kill as many Nazis and German collaborators as possible, even poisoning the bread sent into a detention center for German SS members.
5 Fabrication – The Hunters
While the work of Mossad and the Nakam group was very real the Hunters portrayed on the Amazon program were created for the show itself. There was never a group of murderous avenging survivors and associates hunting down Nazis in the United States (whether they were a part of Operation Paperclip or not).
Meyer Offerman, Jonah Heidelbaum, Mindy and Murray Markowitz, Sister Harriett, Roxy Jones and all the rest were characters written to appear on Hunters rather than actual real-life human beings who hunted down Nazi’s so many years after the end of World War II.
4 Fact – Werner von Braun
While the idea that von Braun faked his own death in 1977 is a fiction created by Hunters, Werner was the Director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center for many years, a beneficiary of Operation Paperclip, and a member of the SS and the Nazi Party. Before working for the American Space Program, von Braun helped to design German V2 rockets (the first long-range guided ballistic missile), that would be launched at London.
The rockets were constructed at the Mittlewerk plant, mostly by slave labor. The Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp supplied the labor. Eventually, production of the rockets was moved underground, where prisoners were then forced to work on the rockets, sleep, and die, without ever seeing the sky again. Von Braun made a number of visits to the site.
3 Fabrication – Singing Competition
While many accounts do exist of Nazi personnel using concentration camp prisoners for bizarre and heinous forms of entertainment (Salamo Arouch was forced to box for the entertainment of Nazi guards) a singing competition where only one prisoner survives was not one of the real-life horrors documented in any of the many camps across Europe.
2 Fact – Simon Wiesenthal
Simon Wiesenthal, portrayed by Judd Hirsch in episode eight of Hunters was a real man who did start the Simon Wiesenthal Center in the hopes of documenting Nazi crimes and bringing perpetrators to justice. Today, according to their mission statement,”The Simon Wiesenthal Center is a global human rights organization researching the Holocaust and hate in a historic and contemporary context. The Center confronts anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism, promotes human rights and dignity.”
1 Fabrication – Nazi Chess Match
The scene that most disturbed the Auschwitz Memorial was a scene in Hunters premiere episode where a Nazi officer sets up a human chessboard, with prisoners for pieces, and has them kill one another when it’s time for one piece to send another off the board. With all of the real-life atrocities documented from the Holocaust, the Memorial called this scene “dangerous foolishness” that they worry will encourage Holocaust deniers rather than increase education on the horrors.
NEXT: Hunters: 5 Things We Want To See In The Series (& 5 We Don’t)