‘Stranger Things’ Prison at Center of Controversy as Netflix Tries to Turn It Into a Themed Hotel

Netflix is facing backlash due to their new project, partnering with Airbnb to turn Stranger Things filming location Lukiškės Prison into a hotel themed after the popular series. But before it ever served as the backdrop for Hopper’s (David Harbour) brutal stint as a political prisoner in Russia, the Lithuanian prison had over a century of its own gruesome history as an operational facility for everyone from criminals, to real-life political prisoners.

Lukiškės Prison is perhaps best known, however, as a Nazi-run holding cell and concentration camp for thousands of Jewish, Polish, and Soviet people during World War II. There, they were viciously tortured and killed in droves, in addition to having to survive each day in horrible conditions. Prisoners were routinely mistreated and abused as they were forced to live in cramped and unclean conditions with minimal food, light, or social interaction.

Even after World War II ended, the prison continued to be a facility where inmates experienced regular physical and psychological torture and were killed with public hangings through the 1970s. Death sentences were also carried out by firing squads, right next to occupied cells where other prisoners could hear their fellow inmates’ suffering, all the way through the late ’90s when death sentences were finally abolished in Lithuania.

From 1904 to 2019, Lukiškės Prison operated in Lithuania’s capital city of Vilnius to its full capacity. After closing, the Vilnius tourism board tried to rebrand the space and hope to do so by leaning into the success of Stranger Things and Netflix’s desire to turn it into a themed, fully functioning hotel catering to fans of the Netflix Original series.

Unsurprisingly, this rebranding effort has been met with pushback from Jewish and mental health advocacy groups who have posted petitions to put a stop to this rebranding effort, in order to prevent the dishonor and erasure of Holocaust victims and survivors, as well as others who were forced to suffer through the horrors of Lukiškės Prison.

As of right now, one of the main petitions led by Jews and Rroma Against Bigotry has accumulated over 57,000 of its target 75,000 signatures.

Netflix has not yet commented on the Lukiškės Prison controversy.

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