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TV series about a family in the Holocaust moves millions

The successful historical drama series of the Greek channel ERT, "The Bracelet of Fire", recalls the fate of the Jews of Thessaloniki". It is based on the book of the same name by Béatrice Saias-Magrizou. Image: ERT, Collage: KGS/IAC Berlin

The successful historical drama series of the Greek channel ERT, "The Bracelet of Fire", recalls the fate of the Jews of Thessaloniki". It is based on the book of the same name by Béatrice Saias-Magrizou. Image: ERT, Collage: KGS/IAC Berlin




"The Bracelet of Fire" tells the shocking story about Jewish people as it has never been told in Greece.

"Father, don't cry. Father, try to forget..."

"Forgetting hurts more than remembering, my child".

"Father, I will never forget..."

This is the promise Greek author Beatrice Saias-Magrizou made to her father Joseph when he told her in great detail about his life. She describes in a novel the hell he experienced as a prisoner in the camps of the Third Reich and also as a defenseless child in the hands of the infamous doctor Josef Mengele.

The book was published in 2006, so far only in Greek. Now it has been filmed for television as a series under the title "The Bracelet of Fire". The series is one of the biggest Greek TV successes. Six out of ten Greeks have seen at least one episode so far. Remarkable in a country where the Holocaust is still a taboo subject and anti-Semitism is widespread.

In "The Bracelet of Fire," Beatriki Saias-Magrizou recounts the dramatic journey of a Jewish family during the dark moments of the 20th century. She combines true events with fiction in her novel. In doing so, she creates a shocking story about those who went through the flames and managed to come out alive and start anew. "My father told me his story in great pain and tears. He didn't speak for the first few years." The father rebuilt a family without telling what he had experienced. The only trace was the number 116257 on his arm. "At some point he called me and said, 'Now come and let me tell you so you can write the story.' Then he told me everything for the first time. I listened to him, with my stomach tight, my throat tight. We cried, we hugged, but he told me everything and I promised him I would write it down. A few days later my father died, and I wrote this book because I promised him."

Beatriki Saias-Magrizou wishes "that through the book, through the series, people will take a journey to the truths and memories we must have."

Beatrice Saia-Magrizou's father was only 16 years old when he and his family, a family of Sephardic Jews from Thessaloniki, were deported to the concentration camps of the Third Reich. "He was a guinea pig in the hands of Mengele, who subjected him to an appendicitis operation without anesthesia. Side by side, he saw other, more difficult operations being performed, even on children. There they watched each other die… My father persevered and returned two and a half years later to a Thessaloniki abandoned by friends and relatives. He persevered and started a family, but always carried the burden of memory and suffered from very fragile health.“

“I am not afraid to die. I fear that while I live, there are people who question the Holocaust. Imagine I die…”, he told his daughter and she promised him, not to let the Holocaust survivors experience a second death.

This is the first time that the suffering of the Jewish families of Thessaloniki and all of Greece has been captured in a cinematic way in a television series. "There have been documentaries or feature films about the Jewish community in Greece, but no series. Now that has happened and the audience has responded: The series is a huge success!" says Kelli Alchanati, director of fiction at ERT, the Greek public television corporation.

President of the Greek-Israeli Friendship Society Gianna Panagopoulou recalled at the premiere of "The Bracelet of Fire" the duty to remember and the duty to strengthen the historical awareness of the younger generations. "The knowledge about the Holocaust of our Jewish compatriots, as well as about their centuries-long presence in the Greek space, must be passed on to the education and culture of today's Greeks."
"I would rather that there be this important stimulus than a vacuum in the treatment," stresses Alexandros Sakellariou, a lecturer in sociology at the Open University of Greece. Because everyone knows that anti-Semitism is persistent in the country. In 2019, a study published by the Heinrich Böll Foundation showed that 69 percent of Greeks have anti-Semitic attitudes. In addition, deputies from the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn sat in the Greek parliament in 2012 and 2015. Today, there are three ministers in the government who have made anti-Semitic statements. Worse, "The surveys we conducted show that many young Greeks know nothing about the Holocaust. A whole part of history is not taught in school," the researcher notes. In Greece, hopes are emerging that the television series "The Fire Bracelet" will facilitate awareness.


Fabien Perrier