Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948 Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Apr 24 2012
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“A gripping account of World War II. . . . In taut prose, Albright weaves a powerful narrative that wraps her family’s story into the larger political drama unfolding in Europe.” (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
“In the crowded field of memoirs written by former secretaries of state, Madeleine Albright’s books stand out. . . . Albright is a charming and entertaining storyteller.” (The New York Review of Books)
“Albright has supplemented a deeply researched history of World War II-era Czechoslovakia with a moving family narrative.” (The Daily)
“Prague Winter is not only a family story-a proud and moving one-but a brilliant and multilayered account of how Czechoslovakia was formed along the most idealistic lines in the aftermath of World War I. An altogether fascinating and inspiring read.” (Michael Korda, The Daily Beast)
“Showing us villainy, heroism, and agonizing moral dilemmas, Albright’s vivid storytelling and measured analysis bring this tragic era to life.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“A genuinely admirable book. Albright skillfully returns us to some of the darkest years of modern times. Spring eventually came to Prague, but in much of the world it is still winter. The love of democracy fills every one of these instructive and stirring pages.” (Leon Wieseltier)
“I was totally blown away by this book. It is a breathtaking combination of the historical and the personal. Albright confronts the brutal realities of the Holocaust and the conflicted moral choices it led to. An unforgettable tale of fascism and communism, courage and realism, families and heartache and love. (Walter Isaacson)
“A remarkable story of adventure and passion, tragedy and courage set against the backdrop of occupied Czechoslovakia and World War II. Albright provides fresh insights into the events that shaped her career and challenges us to think deeply about the moral dilemmas that arise in our own lives.” (Vaclav Havel)
“A riveting tale of her family’s experience in Europe during World War II [and] a well-wrought political history of the region, told with great authority. . . . More than a memoir, this is a book of facts and action.” (The Los Angeles Times)
“A compelling personal exploration of [Albright’s] family’s Jewish roots as well as an excellent history of Czechoslovakia from 1937 to 1948. . . . Highly informative and insightful. . . . I can’t recommend Prague Winter highly enough.” (The Washington Post Book World)
“Albright’s book is a sprightly historical narrative of this long decade. . . . Her account of the destruction of inter-war Czechoslovakia, both as a geographical entity and as an idea of democracy, first by the Nazis and then by the Communists, is balanced and vivid.” (The Economist)
“A blend of history and memoir that reveals in rich, poignant and often heartbreaking detail a story that had been hidden from her by her own parents. . . . The beating heart of the book is Albright’s searing account of her intimate family saga.” (The Jewish Journal)
“An extraordinary book. . . . Albright artfully presents a wrenching tale of horror and darkness, but also one in which decent and brave people again and again had their say.” (István Deák, The New Republic)
From the Back Cover
Before Madeleine Albright turned twelve, her life was shaken by the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia—the country where she was born—the Battle of Britain, the near total destruction of European Jewry, the Allied victory in World War II, the rise of communism, and the onset of the Cold War.
Albright's experiences, and those of her family, provide a lens through which to view the most tumultuous dozen years in modern history. Drawing on her memory, her parents' written reflections, interviews with contemporaries, and newly available documents, Albright recounts a tale that is by turns harrowing and inspiring. Prague Winter is an exploration of the past with timeless dilemmas in mind and, simultaneously, a journey with universal lessons that is intensely personal.
The book takes readers from the Bohemian capital's thousand-year-old castle to the bomb shelters of London, from the desolate prison ghetto of Terezín to the highest councils of European and American government. Albright reflects on her discovery of her family's Jewish heritage many decades after the war, on her Czech homeland's tangled history, and on the stark moral choices faced by her parents and their generation. Often relying on eyewitness descriptions, she tells the story of how millions of ordinary citizens were ripped from familiar surroundings and forced into new roles as exiled leaders and freedom fighters, resistance organizers and collaborators, victims and killers. These events of enormous complexity are nevertheless shaped by concepts familiar to any growing child: fear, trust, adaptation, the search for identity, the pressure to conform, the quest for independence, and the difference between right and wrong.
"No one who lived through the years of 1937 to 1948," Albright writes, "was a stranger to profound sadness. Millions of innocents did not survive, and their deaths must never be forgotten. Today we lack the power to reclaim lost lives, but we have a duty to learn all that we can about what happened and why." At once a deeply personal memoir and an incisive work of history, Prague Winter serves as a guide to the future through the lessons of the past—as seen through the eyes of one of the international community's most respected and fascinating figures.See all Product Description
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What strikes me about Albright's book is how revealing it is for our own times. The historical lessons that can be ascertained from reading this type of history can save us from falling into the same traps that gave rise to fascists and communists. Near the end of the book, Alright writes, "Few choices have proved more damaging to the future than teaching children to resent the past." Albright's account of even the most horrific circumstances always finds a way to highlight some redeeming quality among the people whether it is the Londoners during the bombings, the Jews singing requiems over mass graves, or Jews finding a way to have community within a Nazi ghetto, or believers in democracy holding on to faith that diverse people can come together. There are myriad tragedies occuring in the pages of the book, and there is hopefulness. We see how earnestly the Nazi's and Communists strived to divide people and turn groups against other groups based on race, nationality, religion and economic level. Too often such tactics have worked for political movements. There are heroes in this book that fought the tide and reached out to others.
I encourage you to read this book. If anyone hesitates because of Ms. Albright's political affiliation, you need not worry about partisan American politics rearing its head here. This is a book for everyone.
Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948 is the story of Albright's personal journey of discovery. Those who study World War II, even superficially, all know that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain essentially signed away the nation of Czechoslovakia to Hitler, an act that has made Chamberlain the very symbol of appeasement ever since. Albright gives us the story behind the story.
Madeleine Albright's father was Josef Korbel, a prominent Czech diplomat. Because of her unique access, both as a former official of the United States of America and her father's daughter, with access to the wealth of material he left behind, Albright provides us with an interesting and engaging history of Czechoslovakia that goes far to fill in the often sketchy and superficial gloss that too often colors the importance of this little corner of the world during the War years while also telling the story of her family.
Well illustrated with pictures from her family collection and superbly footnoted, I found Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948 a compelling read, very hard to put down. If you're a history buff, this one's for you!
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