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On the evening of February 4, 1997, I led the cabinet into the House of Representatives prior to the President’s annual address—the first woman ever to do so. Exchanging greetings with senators and other dignitaries, my heart should have been joyful; instead, I was stunned. That morning’s Washington Post headline had read: “Albright Family Tragedy Comes to Light.”
I was 59 when I learned from a reporter and from certain letters I had received that my ancestral heritage was Jewish and that more than two dozen of my relatives had died in the Holocaust. The revelation shook my deeply ingrained sense of identity, and prompted me to seek answers to questions that I had never before thought to ask. That search began with visits to the small towns in Czechoslovakia where my parents had grown up and to the ancient synagogue where the names of Holocaust victims are enshrined. Prague Winter is a continuation of that personal journey, but also a much wider tale concerning a generation compelled to make painful moral choices amid the tumult of war.
In 1939, when efforts by British and French leaders to appease Hitler had backfired, the Nazis invaded my homeland. I was not yet two years old. My parents escaped with me to London where my father became head of broadcasting for the Czechoslovak government in exile. Strangers in an embattled land, we endured along with our new neighbors the terrible bombing of the Blitz. Back home, the German occupation quickly evolved into a reign of terror under the direction of Reinhard Heydrich, “The Butcher of Prague.” As preparations were made to exterminate the country’s Jews, Czechoslovak parachutists returned to their native soil with a mission: to kill Heydrich -- the only successful assassination of a senior Nazi during the war. In the months that followed that daring assault, Czechs suffered from Hitler’s vengeance, while Jews confined to the infamous Terezin ghetto struggled to retain hope despite overcrowded conditions and the periodic departure of fellow inmates on trains to the east. In England, Czechoslovak leaders maneuvered to reclaim their country’s independence; my mother and father agonized over the fate of loved ones who had remained behind.
From the day America entered the war, my parents and their friends were confident the Allies would win. As democrats from Central Europe, they prayed that the United States—not the Soviet Union—would wield the decisive postwar influence in our region. It was not to be. When at last the Nazis were defeated, Czechoslovakia became again a battleground between democracy and totalitarianism; before long, my family was forced into exile for the second time, finding a permanent home in America.
The story of Prague Winter is often as intensely personal as a mother’s letter, a father’s hidden sorrow, and the earnest artwork of an imprisoned ten-year-old cousin. The themes, however, are universal: loyalty and betrayal, respect and bigotry, accommodating evil or fighting back. What fascinates me is why we make the choices we do. What prompts one person to act boldly in a moment of crisis and a second to seek shelter in the crowd? Why do some people become stronger in the face of adversity while others quickly lose heart? What drives many of us to look down on neighbors based on the flimsy pretexts of nationality and creed? Is it education, spiritual belief, parental guidance, traumatic events, or more likely some combination that causes us to follow the paths that we do? My search for answers compelled me to look back—to the time of harshest winter in the city of my birth.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I have not read this book in entirety. I got a bit bogged down with the early history of her family. I hope to finish someday.Published 3 days ago by Joan I. Barry
Well written Czech history with approriate anecdotes to keep it interesting. A sad political history of a democratic country bullied by Germany and Russia into an unwanted... Read morePublished 5 days ago by Amelia Airhead
As always, Madeleine Albright has written a superb book. She is a fantastic historian with great intellect and a heart for the human in history.Published 7 days ago by Brenda J Bigelow
Authentic and truthful.....Albright writes from personal experience as well as insite into the politics of the time.Published 11 days ago by Amazon Customer
I was in grade school during World War Two. I knew the horror of it, but didn't know so much of what was happening. Read morePublished 19 days ago by Joan
Purchased as gift. Read it before passing it along. Loved it. Delighted to find book was signed by Madeline Albright.Published 26 days ago by Sharon Campbell
This is a remarkable book. No one with any interest in this part of history should skip it.Published 1 month ago by Susan Morris
Very informative. Madelaine Albright is a good storyteller and I liked listening to her "performance".Published 2 months ago by Aase R. D. Andreassen
A "must read" for anyone who wants to understand the evil of Hitler and his Nazi regime.Published 2 months ago by Anthony Wright