Title: Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948
Author: Madeleine Albright
Publisher: Harper Collins
I have long admired Madeleine Albright, the first woman to become Secretary of State in the US. To rise to that level and make a difference seems to me to be an astonishingly difficult job. To do it as a woman raises the difficulty scale even higher.
In The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs, Albright discusses the role religion has played in world affairs, something that isn’t going to go away any time soon. She also reveals hard truths about herself, including the fact she didn’t know she had lost relatives to the Holocaust or that she was, in fact, Jewish.
Prague Winter is a product of Madame Secretary’s research into her own history, which is intertwined inextricably with Czechoslovakia and World War II.
This is not an easy book to read. This is well-researched, often emotional, retelling of one little girl’s life as Hitler rose to power and began to exterminate millions of people. Albright was only a child, but her memories, backed up with research, make for sorrowful reading.
Focusing on Czechoslovakia and its struggle to remain a united, independent country in the face of internal divisiveness between Czechs and Slovaks, and the onslaught of Nazis and Communists under Stalin, Albright’s story reminds the reader that nothing, truly, is every simple when zealots and ideologues are in charge.
She is fair in her assessment, through the long lens of history, that decisions made by Western leaders, while short sighted, were what politics of the time demanded. Neville Chamberlain will always be remembered as an appeaser, but what is rarely discussed is the force of Hitler’s personality and his ability to fool people into thinking he was a reasonable human being who simply wanted to strengthen Germany in the face of the disempowering Versailles treaty of World War I.
Albright’s story is one of heartbreak, and agony. It’s also an important story to know, because the true atrocities of Hitler and Stalin often get masked by the statistics and overwhelming amount of information available. Madeleine Albright’s story is about one family, and one country’s struggle during World War II. It puts into perspective the horrifying truth of what it is to be “other,” when that means certain death.
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