Book on Greek-Jewish roots of Sarkozy goes on sale in Greece

A book on the Greek-Jewish roots of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose family can be traced back to the Jewish community in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, went on sale in Greece Thursday.

The book, whose English title reads Me, the Grandson of a Greek, was launched during a lavish gathering in Athens late Wednesday by Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyianni, former Socialist foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos, former prime minister Constantinos Mitsotakis and the ambassadors of France and Israel.

The book written by three Greek authors gives a historical account of the maternal family of Sarkozy, who were a part of the Jewish community in Thessaloniki, once nick-named the " Jerusalem of the Balkans."

The book reveals that Sarkozy's mother's family came to Thessaloniki from the French region of Provence.

Sarkozy's great-grandfather, Mordechai Mallah, a well-known Thessaloniki jeweller, and his wife, Reina, had seven children. One of them was Aaron, Sarkozy's grandfather.

At the age of 14, Aaron and his mother left for France where Aaron studied medicine and served as a doctor during World War 1. He later met his wife, a nurse, in Paris and converted to Catholicism in order to marry her, taking the name Benedict. One of their children, Andree Mallah, married a Hungarian refugee named Paul Sarkozy. The couple had three sons, one of which was named Nicolas.

Paul Sarkozy left the family when Nicolas was 5 years old and the young boy was largely looked after by his grandfather, who used to tell his grandchildren stories from Thessaloniki.

Nicolas Sarkozy and his brothers did not know of their Jewish roots until after their grandfather passed away in 1972. The book's authors' claim Benedict did not tell his grandchildren about their Jewish roots in order to protect them, fearing another Holocaust, which ended up killing many of the Mallah family.

The authors write that at the age of 20, Nicolas Sarkozy travelled to Thessaloniki to sell his family's property after they were struck with financial problems.

Approximately 6,000 are left of Jewish Community of Thessaloniki today. More than 50,000 of them were massacred during the Nazi occupation of Greece.

Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis presented Sarkozy with a copy of the book at the last EU Council meeting in Brussels. The Greek premier also promised him it would be translated into French. ( Dpa )

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