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Prague winter by Madeleine Albright
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Prague winter (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Madeleine Albright, Bill Woodward (Author)

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3201234,663 (4.08)23
Member:sneuper
Title:Prague winter
Authors:Madeleine Albright
Other authors:Bill Woodward (Author)
Info:New York: HarperCollins; gebonden; stofomslag
Collections:Literature
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Tags:USA, autobiografie

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Prague Winter by Madeleine Albright (2012)

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Very informative and well-written. This book made me want to learn more about Madeline Albright, a person whom I knew very little about before reading this book. ( )
  SqueakerMarie | Apr 17, 2014 |
Because my paternal grandparents were Slovak immigrants, I was always aware of and interested in Czech and Slovak history. I remember how stunned I was the first time I read about how the British and French sold out Czechoslovakia to Germany in order to appease Hitler and, especially, how galling it was to read of Neville Chamberlain's crushing dismissal of the situation of the Czechs: "How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-marks here because of a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing."

Chamberlain gave us the viewpoint of a citizen of an imperial power. Madeleine Albright shows us what it was like from the other side, for those "people of whom we know nothing," when their aggressive neighbors decided to take over and their supposed allies' support evaporated.

Marie Jana Korbel was born in Prague in 1937 and was just a baby when Hitler annexed the Sudetenland in the northern part of the Czech lands and, shortly thereafter, invaded and made the Czech provinces of Bohemia and Moravia into a Reich Protectorate. Her father, Josef Korbel, was in the diplomatic service and was able to take his family to London, where the Czech government-in-exile had fled, and where he produced wartime radio programs to be broadcast to those back home under the Nazi yoke.

After the war's end, the Korbel family was able to return, and Josef Korbel to resume his diplomatic service, but the Communist coup in 1948 forced them out of their home once again. They were given asylum in the US, where Marie Jana Korbel became Madeleine Albright, the first woman Secretary of State.

You may remember that very shortly after President Clinton named Albright Secretary of State, she learned that her parents were Jewish (though they'd converted to Roman Catholicism before her birth and raised her as a Catholic) and that a score of her close relatives, including three of her grandparents, were killed in Auschwitz and the Czech camp at Terezin (called Theresienstadt by the Germans).

In this book, Albright melds her family history with that of the Czechs (and, much less so, the Slovaks). Jews were among the most assimilated and secularized in Europe, and many considered themselves Czech before Jews, especially when Czechoslovakia became an independent nation after World War I. The country was an industrial powerhouse with a very high literacy rate and a strong cultural life. Of course, its strengths made it a target for Germany and the USSR.

Josef Korbel's position in the Czech government and closeness to its leaders gives Albright a good background to explain the diplomatic and political high-wire act the country had to perform, trying to preserve its culture and economy against the aggression of its neighbors and the relative indifference of its friends. She writes an excellent, readable history of the political and diplomatic history of the country.

Surprisingly, it is with the personal side of the history that Albright is less successful. I would have liked to know more about her experiences during the Blitz (though she was very young) and, especially, about her parents' decision to convert and what happened to her relatives. I got the impression that because she loved her parents deeply, and they didn't choose to tell her or her siblings about the family history, she may have felt a sense of disloyalty if she'd delved into this subject too deeply.

DISCLOSURE: I received a free review copy of this book. ( )
1 vote Remizak | Apr 7, 2013 |
This book seems to be two books in one which I am not sure is a good thing. At the start it seems it will be a family history when Ms. Albright finds out when being vetted to be Secretary of State by Bill Clinton that her heritage is actually Jewish when she was raised a Catholic. Three of her four grandparents were killed during the Holocaust. Then the book veers into the Czech governments struggle to maintain its integrity against the Nazis early and the Russians after World War 2. At this point her family falls to the background and the majority of the book is about internal Czech politics which bogged things down unless you are a real historical junkie. Then toward the end the family rises to prominence once again. I guess I felt she should have run with one theme or the other. It is interesting but unless you have a passion for politics the reading will be a grind for you in parts. ( )
  muddyboy | Apr 2, 2013 |
Author
Madeleine Korbel Albright (born Marie Jana Korbelová) was the first woman to become United States Secretary of State. She was nominated by President Bill Clinton on December 5, 1996 and was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate 99-0. She was sworn in on January 23, 1997.

Review
Normally I am not much of a memoir reader. If I read I prefer to drown in a world that is not real, to read about fake misery and fake pain. Still I got attracted to this book. I read HhhH by Laurent Binet in 2012 and was intrigued by the history on WWII in Prague which pulled me to this book.
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It was written in a very light tone making the story easily accessible.
The story told is the history of Czechoslovakia and how it became to country it was when the war started. After that introduction the author guides us trough the choices made concerning the country and why some of those where made. It is clear the author had good connection with people who where involved in those choices or had access to documents in later days. I really enjoyed the insight feeling in the story.
I had however expected the book to be more about the family and their experiences in war time. Though it gets better as the story evolves I still experienced the story more as an insider view on the situation in Prague and the development in Czechoslovakia before during and after the war. I had hoped on more personal stories. It I however understandable because the author was only a toddler and got most of her information from interviews and papers from her parents and family.
If you want to know more about this period of time in Czechoslovakia this is for sure a must read. ( )
  Ciska_vander_Lans | Mar 30, 2013 |
Albright's story of her youth during World War II. Sad and moving, with great insight on Czech history and how evil rises to power.
  BK138 | Mar 23, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Madeleine Albrightprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Woodward, Billsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
MEMORIES OF PRAGUE

How long since I last saw
The sun sink low behind Petrin Hill?
With tearful eyes I gazed at you, Prague,
Enveloped in your evening shadows.
How long since I last heard the pleasant rush of water
Over the weir in the Vltava river?
I have long since forgotten the bustling life of Wenceslas Square.
Those unknown corners in the Old Town,
Those shady nooks and sleepy canals,
How are they? They cannot be grieving for me
As I do for them . . .
Prague, you fairy tale in stone, how well I remember!

Petr Ginz (1928-1944)
Terezin
Dedication
To those who did not survive but taught us how to live - and why
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I was fifty-nine when I began serving as U.S. secretary of state.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0062030310, Hardcover)


Madeleine Albright on Writing Prague Winter

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:56:07 -0400)

From former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright comes a moving and thoughtful memoir of her formative years in Czechoslovakia during the tumult of Nazi occupation, World War II, fascism, and the onset of the Cold War.

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