Hunters (2020 TV series)
|Created by||David Weil|
|Theme music composer||Trevor Gureckis|
|Composer||Cristobal Tapia de Veer|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||10 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||57–90 minutes|
|Original network||Amazon Prime Video|
|Original release||February 21, 2020 –|
Hunters is an American drama streaming television series created by David Weil. It premiered on February 21, 2020, on Amazon Prime Video. In August 2020, the series was renewed for a second season.
The series is inspired by a number of real Nazi hunters through the decades, but it is not meant to be a specific representation of any of them. It follows a diverse band of Nazi hunters living in 1977 New York City who discover that Nazi war criminals are conspiring to create a Fourth Reich in the U.S. A parallel plot element is the discovery of Operation Paperclip, the U.S. government operation relocating many German scientists (many of them Nazis) to the U.S.
Cast and characters
- Logan Lerman as Jonah Heidelbaum, a young mathematics whiz who takes his grandmother's place among the Hunters. Lerman joined the project due to the involvements of Jordan Peele, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, David Weil, and Nikki Toscano, and the series' moral dilemma of being bad to fight evil.
- Al Pacino as Meyer Offerman, a Polish-Jewish philanthropist and Holocaust survivor who recruits and leads the Hunters. It is Pacino's first-ever TV series lead role; said the long-time actor, "I missed out on some great television offers I had in the past because the whole thing was: 'You don't do television.' That's what the advisors would say early on. I'm talking 30 years ago." Creator David Weil, who created Hunters because his grandparents were both Holocaust survivors, describing writing Meyer as "me meeting my grandfather for the first time, and that was a really beautiful and kind of powerful thing."
- Lena Olin as The Colonel, leader of the Fourth Reich
- Jerrika Hinton as Millie Morris, an FBI agent who stumbles onto the Fourth Reich and the Hunters during a murder investigation. Hinton focused the most on the character's overwhelming faith on powerful institutions meant to protect citizens, such as the FBI. In studying the role as well as the nature of the FBI in the 1970s, she had conversations with a black woman who was an FBI agent in the 1970s like Millie, named Jerri Williams, which, in Hinton's words, were "monumentally helpful."
- Saul Rubinek as Murray Markowitz, Mindy's husband and the Hunters' electronics expert; a German-Jewish Holocaust survivor
- Carol Kane as Mindy Markowitz, Murray's wife and the Hunters' signals expert; a German-Jewish Holocaust survivor
- Josh Radnor as Lonny Flash, actor and master of disguises for the Hunters
- Greg Austin as Travis Leich, an American Neo-Nazi acolyte drawn into the Fourth Reich. Austin chose the role after doing many prior ones very close to his empathetic real-life personality, and wanting to challenge himself playing the opposite of that; he studied psychopathic characters in various television series, as well as the real-life Ted Bundy, for his role.
- Tiffany Boone as Roxy Jones, a member of the Hunters who specializes in counterfeiting and forgery
- Louis Ozawa as Joe Mizushima, a Vietnam War veteran and the Hunters' combat expert
- Kate Mulvany as Sister Harriet, a former MI6 operative who now works with the Hunters; a former German-Jewish child refugee
- Dylan Baker as Biff Simpson, an Undersecretary of State in the Carter administration and secretly an undercover Nazi agent
- Christian Oliver as Wilhelm Zuchs, "The Wolf," a Nazi doctor at Auschwitz who tormented both Meyer and Jonah's grandmother Ruth
- Victor Williams as Detective Kennedy Groton
- Jonno Davies as Tobias, the Colonel's body man
- James LeGros as Hank Grimsby, former OSS operative and now Millie's boss at the FBI
- Ebony Obsidian as Carol Lockhart
- Caleb Emery as Arthur "Bootyhole" McGuigan
- Henry Hunter Hall as Sherman "Cheeks" Johnson
- Jeannie Berlin as Ruth Heidelbaum, Jonah's grandmother and a survivor of Auschwitz
- Julissa Bermudez as Maria, Millie's girlfriend and a nurse
- Becky Ann Baker as Commerce Secretary Juanita M. Kreps
- Celia Weston as Dottie
- Joshua Satine as Aaron Markowitz
- Josh Mostel as Rabbi Steckler
- Barbara Sukowa as Tilda Sauer
- Judd Hirsch as Simon Wiesenthal
- Keir Dullea as Klaus Rhinehart
- William Sadler as Friedrich Mann
- John Noble as Fredric Hauser
- Victor Slezak as Wernher Von Braun
- Veronika Nowag-Jones as Gretel Fischer, a NASA scientist killed in the first episode and investigated by Millie Morris
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date |
|1||"In the Belly of the Whale"||Alfonso Gomez-Rejon||David Weil||February 21, 2020|
|US undersecretary of state Biff hosts a barbecue, where a guest is shocked to recognise him as a senior Nazi, leading to Biff killing all present, including his own family. Jonah witnesses the brutal murder of his grandmother inside their Brooklyn home, and subsequently vows to find the truth of her death. He meets Ruth’s old friend, Meyer Offerman, while sitting Shiva for Ruth. In Florida, an elderly NASA scientist, Gretel Fischer, is killed in her shower. Jonah, who is a code-breaking prodigy, sees just a few clues in Meyer's home, but uses them to find Ruth's killer — a toy-shop owner who was a murderous guard at the Auschwitz concentration camp and the killer of Ruth's younger sister. The toy-shop owner gets the upper hand, but Meyer arrives and kills him.|
|2||"The Mourner's Kaddish"||Wayne Yip||David Weil||February 21, 2020|
|Meyer brings Jonah into the Hunters, who are initially reluctant to have him involved, though he quickly gains some acceptance by breaking a code in the toy maker's correspondence. Jonah learns that Ruth was a major part of the Hunters, having built their extensive archive of historical files and more recent interviews. FBI agent Millie, investigating the death of the scientist, starts to uncover the Nazi links. Travis, a deadly American born Nazi working for The Colonel, who is leading the Nazi underground, is sent to Florida to learn who is killing their members. The Hunters track down a record producer who used to be the murderous Pied Piper of Buchenwald concentration camp. The Hunters find seemingly innocuous messages the man is secretly broadcasting, but Jonah messes up and the man is killed before they can learn more.|
|3||"While Visions of Safta Danced in His Head"||Wayne Yip||Nikki Toscano||February 21, 2020|
|The Markowitzes discover a code in the Pied Piper's broadcasts, suggesting that tragic events in America's past, including the Watergate scandal and the assassination of RFK, were part of a Nazi plot. The messages suggest the next big Nazi-managed event will take place on July 13, 1977 in New York. Jonah's friend Bootyhole, who was working in the comic book store instead of Jonah, is killed by Travis.|
|4||"The Pious Thieves"||Nelson McCormick||Mark Bianculli||February 21, 2020|
|The Hunters find a huge collection of Nazi stolen treasure hidden in a bank in New Jersey. Jonah finds letters written by Ruth, explaining the deepening affection between her and Meyer while at the Auschwitz concentration camp.|
|5||"At Night, All Birds are Black"||Dennie Gordon||David J. Rosen||February 21, 2020|
|At Auschwitz concentration camp, a doctor known as The Wolf is disappointed when Ruth will not work with him, so he does tortuous experiments on Meyer in retaliation. Half the Hunters go to Alabama to pursue a Nazi doctor who experimented on prisoners during the war, while the others go after Tilda, a Nazi propaganda film director now working as a political consultant. Millie continues pursuing her own leads on the presence of Nazis in America. Unknown assailants beat up Millie. Sister Harriet rescues a Nazi from the others and drives off.|
|6||"(Ruth 1:16)"||Millicent Shelton||Zakiyyah Alexander||February 21, 2020|
|The day of the Markowitz' daughter's wedding, Murray recalls how they were taken, with their young son, to be sent to a concentration camp, where an officer killed their son. Flashbacks show that Sister Harriet was secretly sent to England, with other young German girls, to hide out during the war. She arrives at the wedding, revealing that she has tied up the Nazi, who she had realized was the man who killed the Markowitz boy. Millie breaks up with her live-in girlfriend, fearing she will be attacked too. Travis breaks into Meyer's mansion and is able to burn many of the files the Hunters are using to track Nazis.|
|7||"Shalom Motherf***er"||Nelson McCormick||Eduardo Javier Canto & Ryan Maldonado||February 21, 2020|
|Meyer admits that he is Jonah's grandfather. Millie, despite knowing that the recent victims are Nazis who murdered millions, is hellbent on charging Offerman with murder, misleading a judge in order to get a warrant to arrest Offerman. When Jonah solves the final piece of the Nazi music code, the Hunters discover a Nazi plot to sneak a shipment of a biological weapon through the port of New York by causing distractions with the New York City blackout of 1977 and bombing a crowded subway car. Murray and Jonah save the passengers, but Murray Markowitz is killed trying to disarm the bomb.|
|8||"The Jewish Question"||Michael Uppendahl||David Weil & Charley Casler||February 21, 2020|
|Mindy Markowitz kills the man who murdered her son after burying Murray, who she was surprised to find out wanted a Jewish funeral when he finally died. Meyer tells Jonah why he and Ruth never married: at Auschwitz, Meyer chose to shoot a series of eleven prisoners in order to stop the Wolf from shooting Ruth, ignoring her pleas to let the Wolf shoot her instead. The Hunters find Nazi and NASA scientist Wernher von Braun via Nazi Hunter Simon Wiesenthal, who is diametrically opposed to Meyer's team killing the Nazis rather than bringing them before legal tribunals.|
|9||"The Great Ole Nazi Cookout of '77"||Nelson McCormick||Nikki Toscano||February 21, 2020|
|The episode begins with a review of the reasons given for bringing over the Nazis to the United States in the first place, so that the USSR would not be able to recruit them for their government and space program. The Hunters attack the Fourth Reich's bunker, destroying it and the corn syrup carrying their pathogen before it can be released. During a struggle, Jonah has the chance to kill Travis, but is talked down by Millie, who arrests Travis instead. Meyer manages to capture the Colonel who suggests that the pathogen isn't the Fourth Reich's only plan. A struggle ensues, causing Meyer to crash the car into the river.|
|10||"Eilu v' Eilu"||Michael Uppendahl||David Weil||February 21, 2020|
Meyer is rescued from the wreck by Harriet while the Colonel is killed. Jonah begins a search for Wilhelm "The Wolf" Zuchs, the Nazi doctor who tortured Meyer and Ruth thirty years before. From clues, Jonah discovers Ruth's files which lead him to capture a surgeon he believes to be the Wolf who Meyer executes. However, Meyer doesn't recite a prayer he'd sworn to Ruth he would if he ever caught up to the Wolf, leading a horrified Jonah to put the pieces together and realize that Meyer is actually the Wolf. Zuchs confesses, explaining that he had killed the real Meyer to take his identity and escape the Soviets while later undergoing plastic surgery (from the SS surgeon he just now killed) to complete the transformation. Having lived a Jewish life for thirty years, Zuchs insists that he regrets his actions and that a visit by Ruth a year before inspired him to bring the Hunters together as penance. Despite a vision of Ruth attempting to talk him down, Jonah kills Zuchs and reveals the truth to the other horrified Hunters. Harriet, after having consulted with an unidentified woman, suggests to the remaining Hunters that they continue their mission in Europe. Mizushima is kidnapped and taken to Argentina, where he discovers that The Colonel is alive, her identity is Eva Braun and she is living with Adolf Hitler and four identical Aryan-looking boys.Meanwhile Travis is incarcerated, visited by his parents who questioned what led him to this path. He recants his actions and asks for a lawyer. Later, Travis consults with his lawyer and confesses he hasn't changed at all. He tells the lawyer he needs an army and plans to recruit from inside the prison. To rally support, Travis kills his lawyer, a Jewish man, and shouts hate speech and hears the echoes of his chant as he's carried out.
Digital Spy writer David Opie considered a show about Jewish heroes like Hunters important, due to the marginalization of the Jewish religion in the fictional superhero landscape. While there are many Jewish comic book heroes, including Scarlet Witch, Kitty Pryde, the Thing, and Harley Quinn, the Jewish aspect of their lives is almost always marginalized.
The Jewish David Weil noted "casual" forms of anti-semitism taking place throughout his life, such as jokes about "Jews in ovens" and swastikas sprayed on his high school. Hunters is also far from the first piece of media to involve protagonists hunting down Nazis, as those have included films like The Odessa File (1974), Apt Pupil (1998), The Boys from Brazil (1978), and Marathon Man (1976), as well as content regarding Nazi zombies.
I think as a young Jewish kid growing up on Long Island in New York, there are feelings of wanting to be powerful. You rarely see Jews depicted as superheroes; as having might and strength. They're often nebbishes or Woody Allen or very intellectual. But to have power to reclaim your place and get justice for your ancestors is definitely a wish fulfilment. And that's what Hunters became.
Creator David Weil's inspiration for Hunters was bedtime stories of World War II experiences told by his grandmother Sarah, who was a survivor of the Auschwitz camp Birkenau; the stories had a long-lasting impact on David because they were about "great good vs. terrifying evil" and had themes of "hope, courage and survival," elements he also noticed in comic book superhero stories he would read. Additional reasons for creating the show were a "lack of Jewish superheroes" in film and television, citing examples of films about Nazi Germany like Inglourious Basterds (2009) and Schindler's List (1993) having non-Jewish protagonists, and a desire to expose "hidden truths" and to help those "who've always felt persecuted, who linger with trauma and injustice" in response to "rising anti-Semistism, racism, xenophobia."
Despite the attachment of Get Out director Jordan Peele and Weil having an "80-page bible" of the show written, most buyers were wary of the project and refused to purchase it; the creator suggested that it was due to the series' premise of "a diverse band of 'others' kind of rising up and trying to reclaim power in some way" not being typical in mainstream entertainment. Amazon Studios head Jen Salke bought the series. Nikki Toscano joined as producer for its ambitious concept: "I think that the juxtaposition of the 1970s New York City with the Holocaust, with some of the levity and the humour, was certainly a challenge for us to balance throughout. But it was a challenge that I thought was an obstacle worth trying to get over."
On May 17, 2018, it was announced that Amazon Video had given the production a straight-to-series order for a first season consisting of ten episodes. Weil was set to executive produce alongside Jordan Peele, Tom Lesinski, Jenna Santoianni, and Win Rosenfeld. Weil was also expected to write for the series as well. Production companies involved with the series were slated to consist of Monkeypaw Productions and Sonar Entertainment. On August 7, 2018, it was announced that Nikki Toscano had joined the production as an executive producer and would also serve as co-showrunner alongside Weil. On August 3, 2020, Amazon renewed the series for a second season.
On December 13, 2018, it was reported that Logan Lerman was in talks for a lead role in the series, Jonah Heidelbaum. On January 10, 2019, it was reported that Al Pacino was finalizing a deal for a starring role in the series. On February 7, 2019, it was reported that Jerrika Hinton, Dylan Baker, Lena Olin, Greg Austin, Catherine Tate, Tiffany Boone, Saul Rubinek, and Carol Kane were in various stages of negotiations to join the cast of the series. Four days later, it was announced that Boone had officially joined the cast. Josh Radnor was cast in March. In April 2019, Kate Mulvany, James LeGros, Ebony Obsidian, Caleb Emery, Henry Hunter Hall and Jeannie Berlin joined the cast of the series, with Mulvany joining as a series regular. On April 5, 2021, Jennifer Jason Leigh was cast as a lead for the second season.
The bowling scene was Austin's audition scene as well as the first sequence he filmed for the series, and a continuous shot where his character talks to the congressman before bowling a strike was done within one take.
Themes and visuals
You should read the Torah more. It's the original comic book— Meyer Offerman
According to Weil, "the purpose of this show is an allegorical tale in many ways, to draw the parallels between the ’30s and ’40s in Europe and the ’70s in the States and especially today with the racism and anti-Seminitism and xenophobia, the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades."
As David Weil put it, "Hunters is about a group of people who are so rarely portrayed as superheroes" and incorporates iconography to show the Jewish characters as superheroes that reclaim their power; an example is the use of yellow coloring on the costumes and weapons of the hunters as a way to reclaim the color of the yellow badge as the Jews'. Weil also went for a similar heroism in the prisoners in the Auschwitz camp flashbacks.
Genre-wise, Hunters is a mix of several styles: "a harrowing remembrance of the suffering of the Holocaust, a satisfying revenge fantasy, a sensational period piece, and a dark comedy," labeled The Verge's Joshua Rivera. Ben Travers of IndieWire categorized it as a black comedy thriller that's "extremely violent and extremely silly; it respects the drama inherent to any Holocaust story while still allowing fans to enjoy the fictionalized quest for vengeance. For every conversation about justice and vengeance, morality and responsibility, right and wrong, there's a fake ad about spotting Nazis or a dance sequence set to 'Staying Alive.'" Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe compared its comedy and look to the works of the Coen brothers and Quentin Tarantino. Prahlad Srihari, a Firstpost critic, also used one of Tarantino's works to describe it as a combination of the director's film Inglourious Basterds (2009) and Steven Spielberg's Munich (2005). Several 1970s exploitation genres are imitated in the show, such as kung fu, grindhouse, Blaxploitation, Jewsploitation, and torture porn.
Fighting individuals who committed serious crimes with actions like violence is a common moral dilemma the titular hunters deal with; Rubinek explained that this was important, as the message of the Jewish folklore of the golem is that "monster which grows violent and protects the Jews, also turns violent inappropriately and has to be put down." Weil stated that the main question of the story is, "If you hunt monsters, do you risk becoming a monster yourself?" "Some of Hunters' biggest thematic questions revolve around whether ends justify means or if the pursuit of vengeance risks corrupting those who seek it," Rivera put it more specifically. For Jonah he's "pushed and pulled between asserting himself as a hunter and, if not empathizing with the hunted, believing there's a more humane way of holding them accountable. Is Jonah naive and soft for being appalled by the team's tactics? Or is he exercising better moral judgment because he's lived outside the dehumanizing conditions they faced?" wrote Travers.
Toscano explained that she and the writers, while not sympathizing with the Nazis, were trying to portray them as humans rather than caricatures, realizing there was a "spectrum of evil that we’re dealing with. There is one extreme [and then] there are other Nazis that have various explanations: ‘I was following orders; I was as kid'".
References to pop culture are used that relates to this moral conflict; for instance, in a conversation between Jonah and his two friends after seeing Star Wars (1977), Jonah jokingly hypothesizes Darth Vader is after the Jedi rebels because he was raised to believe they would "bomb his parents, behead his friends, kidnap all the hot Galactic chicks for lightsaber orgies. Vader doesn't get up every day looking to destroy the galaxy. He gets up every morning believing he needs to save it." Jonah's friends counter-respond that Vader is still a killer despite good intentions, and Jonah responds back by saying heroes like Batman and Superman are the same way.
To differentiate from most other shows with a historical context that, to Toscano and Weil, felt "like a history lesson," the two went for a "comic book" style, with a mix of shots with "poppy" colors and shots with de-saturated, "grounded" colors; Weil explained that this was meant to present a message that what "seems like comic book" ends up "scintillating[ly] real." Generally, sequences set in the 1970s have a flashier color palette, while scenes in the Auschwitz camps have more muted colors. Gomez-Rejon came up with the idea of using windows as panels for the show. According to Lerman, the main character works at a comic book shop and one of the stories' major themes are the moral differences between comic books and real-life; for instance, "you have to be bad" instead of a superhero to defeat villains, which is Pacino's view when he trains Jonah into becoming a hunter.
As Film Inquiry describe Hunters' variety of tones, "for every naturalistic colloquy, there's a bit of sparkle and levity by compiling specious footage (usually in the form of a television ad) involving the interracial and intergenerational crew of Nazi-fighters. (At one point in episode 3, Logan Lerman breaks out in a musical number.)"
Upon the release of its first season, Hunters received polarizing reviews, with praise for its premise, messages, action sequences, and performances, but criticism for its story-telling, inconsistent tone, pacing, historical inaccuracies, and conclusion. A favorable review summarized the show as "audacious, tonally complex, not always in control of its message, visually arresting, and, particularly in its grim flashbacks to the brutalities and the courage in the death camps, moving," while one of its harshest detractors labeled it "uneven, awkward, "often dull," and "sort of yucky."
The series has a 64% approval rating with 107 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 6.21/10 and the following critical consensus: "Propelled by a strong cast and even stronger sense of justice, Hunters' stylish first season doesn't always hit the mark, but when it does, it strikes pulpy paydirt." Metacritic gave the series a score of 55 out of 100 based on 37 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Most of the initial reviews were for the first five episodes.
The lack of development of the Hunters was a frequent criticism. Wrote Tom Long of The Detroit News, "we’re introduced to our heroes — who inexplicably include an Asian man and black women — at which point we wait around to see their super-skills. Never happens. Five episodes in none of these people seem all that good at anything." Srihari criticized Biff Simpson not being the main antagonist instead of the Colonel, "who is more Cruella de Vil than exceptionally evil, despite the season-ending pay-off," while Rivera criticized the character of Jonah, feeling that all his conflicts, such as those in his personal life, are only to serve the story: "This makes all of his big moments feel like they occur in a vacuum — especially when he’s paired up with the other Hunters."
A common praise was the cast, including for actors like Pacino, Kane and Rubinek and Olin. Travers praised the performers of the hunters, highlighting Rubinek and Kane, as well as Hinton, Baker, Olin, and the "affecting and fun" Pacino, but called Lerman and his character Jonah nothing more than an "audience stand-in" that "occasionally forgets to get off the couch and move around." Gilbert found Berlin's presence memorable and highlighted the restraint of Pacino: "He brings a lovely gentleness to the role, too, most evident in the fatherly attentions he gives to the confused, grieving, and newly mobilized Jonah. He sees generational wrath in the young man’s fury, and he fosters it." He also called Lerman "good enough if somewhat one-dimensional as Jonah."
The tone dissonance and mashing of styles turned off some reviewers. Wrote Gilbert, "the leaps from the kitschy shag-carpeted world of bell-bottoms to the spare cruelties of the camps, and from action comedy to human tragedy, are a lot." Verne Gay of Newsday opined that while Hunters was successful as a genre show, it was an "impossible balancing act" to make it both that and a "personal tribute" to those who died in the Nazi camps with its flashback sequences. Tom Long of The Detroit News wrote that, "Tonally it careens madly from sincere to silly, gory to glib," and when it came to its use of pastiche styles, "It’s as if someone took notes while watching a marathon of Quentin Tarantino movies, getting all the bits and pieces without understanding why they worked." ArtsATL was disgusted by the use of comic book references and cliches in a show with "the genocide of 6 million people in World War II" as one of its major themes.
Reviews debated Hunters' revenge fantasy premise and Nazi subject matter, specifically, in 3AW 's words, "the oft-raised issue about exploiting one of the most horrific man-made events in history for our entertainment. Can the show be seen as an indirect tribute to the work of Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal? Or is it just bad taste? Can it be both?" Gilbert was appreciative of the "bold" inclusion of "Nazis into a broad genre-tinged entertainment," as it's also "part of the origin story of Golden Age superhero comic books themselves," and suggested it would start conversation between viewers. Other critics, even those who were engaged with the content, unfavorably opined its premise and revenge message made it a B-grade series; Srihari, in particular, categorized it as "an exploitation film that has invaded an overlong comic book movie" and that "the violence brings together the victimiser and victimised in a punishing embrace." Film Inquiry's "Does that make it right? Of course not. Is it fun to watch? In all honesty, not really. It is, however, extremely aware and extremely responsive in how it tinkers with history by adding a fair amount of pathos."
A positive review by Travers, who stated that the show's violence and "twisted moments" "allow for a fanciful level of wish fulfillment, as well as a compelling action narrative," claimed they led the serious themes to feel non-relevant. Long dismissed Hunters as "a wildly uneven, superficial, comic book-type treatment" of the "particularly sick and unfortunately still-relevant dynamic" of American Nazism, attributing the problem to the writing being "black-and-white" and filled with stereotypes.
Srihari suggested that the series should've used "subtle and subversive" methods of dehumanizing Nazis, such as in the flashback scene where the Jewish prisoners play the Israeli folk song "Hava Nagila" instead of music by composer Richard Wagner as a Nazi officer commands them to. He also argued the comical torturing devices of the officers, such as the human chess board and the singing competition, "stops being disturbing after a while as the mayhem turns into monotony." Stover similarly opined that "the series wallows in its own jarring material to the point of lassitude."
Rivera named the show's straight-forward moments its best, such as the flashbacks in the fourth episode of a couple trying to escape the camp. Long was harsh on the flashbacks, however, suggesting that they're "supposed to provide motivation but often just looks like Jews being tortured in concentration camps." The Mary Sue's Sara Clements, although agreeing with the criticisms of the flashbacks, also stated that they are essential, as "they emphasize a simple fact: We must know and must not forget what happened during the Holocaust. Even when there are no survivors left to tell their stories, we must continue in their place."
The series has received some criticism from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum due to inaccurate use of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. The scene depicting prisoners being forced to participate in a game of human chess was called out as "dangerous foolishness and caricature". The museum was also concerned that the show "welcomes future deniers". Director of the USC Shoah Foundation Stephen D. Smith heavily criticized the show and concluded that "Amazon must not renew it for a second season."
In a statement, series creator David Weil, the grandson of Holocaust survivors, responded to the criticism and spoke to wanting to tell a story about the Holocaust without borrowing from a specific survivor's real life or experience without their permission. He said, "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 ... I did not want to misrepresent a real person or borrow from a specific moment in an actual person’s life. That was the responsibility that weighed on me every night and every morning for years, while writing, producing, and editing this show."
Rubinek also responded to criticisms about the show's violence, explaining that it was warning the viewers about the negative consequences of any sort of revengeful violence (even on those who killed marginalized groups of people) instead of promoting it: "If the theme of the show was just violence – yes, maybe they'd have a point... But it's not just about that. It's about the consequences of it."
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