The moving film “Cloudy Sunday,” which was released in 2021, tells the poignant and tragic story of the Greek-Jewish population of Thessaloniki during WWII.
Cloudy Sunday: The Story
Against the wider backdrop of WWII, the film follows two lovers, Estrea and Yorgos, in Thessaloniki. One is Jewish and one is Christian. Their relationship is plagued by the prejudices around them, as well as the increasingly violent incursions of Germans into the Sephardic Jewish community.
Estrea’s parents have arranged her marriage to another Jewish man. They cut her off when she confesses she is in love with Yorgos. She becomes a part of the resistance to the Nazis in Greece. Meanwhile, Yorgos’ father seems to tacitly accept and support German treatment of the Jewish population.
Directed by Manousos Manousakis, the film features stand-out lead performances by Christina Heila-Fameli, who plays Estrea Beza, and Haris Fragoulis, who plays Yorgos Samaras.
You can watch the full trailer below:
The story explores a lot of historical realities about resistance, timid acceptance, and, unfortunately, occasional collaboration with German invaders in Greece. “Cloudy Sunday”, known as “Ouzeri Tsitsanis” in Greek, also shows how slow some people were to accept the reality of what was happening to their community, most poignantly in the figure of Estrea’s mother.
The rabbi of Estrea’s congregation is one of the first to believe that the fate of Greek Jews in Thessaloniki won’t be quite as bad if they simply follow Germans’ orders and instructions. He urges his congregants not to upset the German soldiers too much.
History of the Greek Jewish Community in Thessaloniki
The significant Jewish population of Thessaloniki, the largest community in all of Greece, was decimated by the Nazis during World War II.
From an initial community of around 50,000 people, their numbers were decreased to just under 2,000 survivors at the end. Many were killed either in concentration camps or during the course of war.
After invading the area in early 1941, Germans arrested the Jewish leadership. They evicted most families from their community. Beyond humiliating Jewish citizens, Nazis also tried to destroy the Jewish heritage, plundering cultural and artistic items of value.
Eventually, Germans forced Jewish men into labor camps, where they beat them and worked them to the bone. Then, the Jewish population was forcibly put into ghettos. Eventually, 45,000 Jewish Greeks were sent to Auschwitz, where most died.
Most of the descendants of the few Greek Jews who survived the Holocaust now live in Israel or the US.
“Cloudy Sunday” was written by Ada Gourbali in conjunction with Manousos Manousakis. The film successfully evokes a very nuanced historical portrayal of the times. Other prominent cast members in “Cloudy Sunday” include Andreas Konstantinou, Yannis Stankoglou, Maria Kavoukidou, and Vasiliki Troufakou.
For details on how to watch the moving film, go to the Hellenic Film Society.