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Is The Plagues of Breslau Based on a Real Serial Killer?

April 22, 2020
4 min read

Polish drama ‘The Plagues of Breslau’ follows a series of horrific murders. It adds to Netflix’s already vast collection of films, TV shows, documentaries, and docuseries about serial killers. However, it stands out from all the other projects due to its uniquely gruesome murders and a distinct atmosphere of the story.

The murders take place at 6 in the evening. The serial killer is always two steps ahead of the cops. With every kill, a different skill set of the killer is exposed, which makes the profiling incredibly tricky. At the helm of the investigation is Helena Rus. Going through a personal crisis, she looks at the crimes from a completely different perspective than her colleagues. She understands why the person might be committing these crimes, and this is what brings her closer to the criminal.

The nature of these killings is so horrifying that it chills to think that someone could actually do something like this. On the other hand, reality is stranger than fiction, and history has recorded despicable people doing unimaginable things. This raises the question of the film’s authenticity. Is it based on real events? Here’s the answer.

Is The Plagues of Breslau Based on a True Story?

No, ‘The Plagues of Breslau’ is not based on a true story. It is a crime drama, written by Patryk Vega and Sylwia Koperska-Mrozinska. In the film, Magda uses the Week of Plague as the historical reference for the serial killings happening in Wroclaw. She tells the story of Frederick the Great. After taking over Breslau in 1941, he wanted it to become a great city. For this, he needed to weed out all the bad things that would hold back its peace and prosperity. He considered six human fallacies to be the plagues that would never let them grow.

They were degeneracy, pillaging, corruption, slandering, oppression, and treachery. To show everyone how serious he was considering his plans, he devised the Week of Plagues. Every day, apart from Sunday, one person, who had committed any of these crimes, would be publically executed. Apparently, Magda reads about it in a book of local history. In reality, there is no account of any such practice in the reign of Frederick the Great.

Who was Frederick the Great?

Frederick the Great served as the ruler of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1740-1786. The practice of the Week of Plagues portrays him as a feared and brutal ruler, but that was not the case. Yes, he wanted to make Prussia a force to reckon with, and he did pull it out of a bad place to become an economically and politically reformed state. But, he did not resort to such gruesome tactics to make it happen. In fact, he abolished judicial torture. Only flogging was allowed, and only for the soldiers who had deserted their post.

He even made the death penalty a rarity in his state. Only those convicted for murder could be considered to be put to death, and before passing sentence, confirmation was required from the King himself.

Another error in Magda’s story is the year in which she puts Frederick the Great in Breslau. It was not in 1741, but in June 1742 that Breslau became a part of his empire. It came as a part of the treaty signed between him and the Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria, marking the end of the First Silesian War.

Is The Plagues of Breslau Based on a Real Serial Killer?

The trademarks of the serial killer in Wroclaw are that the killings take place at 6 pm every day, and the victims are guilty of one crime or the other. In reality, none of these criteria had been fulfilled by any serial killer in recorded history. The only serial killer that comes to mind when you think about the sins of the victims is Kevin Spacey’s John Doe in David Fincher’s ‘Seven’, which itself is based on a fictional story by Andrew Kevin Walker.

In Poland’s history, too, there is no record of any such serial killings. So, at best, we can say that the writers of ‘The Plague of Breslau’ were inspired by the works of Fincher or some other story that they might have come across. The film is, fortunately, not based on any actual events.

Read More: The Plagues of Breslau Ending, Explained

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