Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948

Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948

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by Madeleine Albright
     
 

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“A remarkable story of adventure and passion, tragedy and courage set against the backdrop of occupied Czechoslovakia and World War II.” —Václav Havel

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,

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Overview

“A remarkable story of adventure and passion, tragedy and courage set against the backdrop of occupied Czechoslovakia and World War II.” —Václav Havel

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. An intensely personal journey into the past that offers vital lessons for the future, Prague Winter combines the intimacy of an autobiography with the drama of an exciting and well-told story—all underpinned by the gravity and intelligence of a serious work of history. The result is a highly readable and incisive work filled with tragedy and triumph, a resonant narrative informed by Albright’s remarkable life experience and her characteristic candor in speaking hard truths.

Editorial Reviews

Walter Isaacson
“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.
Vaclav Havel
“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.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer
“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 Daily
“Albright has supplemented a deeply researched history of World War II-era Czechoslovakia with a moving family narrative.”
The Los Angeles Times
“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 Washington Post Book World
“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 New York Review of Books
“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 Economist
“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 Jewish Journal
“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.”
Leon Wieseltier
“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.”
Michael Korda
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.”
István Deák
“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.”
Istvan Deak
"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."
Publishers Weekly
The author’s childhood reminiscences of her first 11 years and savvy grasp of history inform this absorbing account of Czechoslovakia’s travails and Albright’s family’s suffering in the Holocaust. The daughter of a diplomat in the Czech government who migrated from Prague to wartime exile in London and back to postwar Prague, former secretary of state Albright (Madam Secretary) sketches lively recollections of weathering the Blitz and other adventures, but her narrative mainly investigates things hidden from her as a child. Raised a Catholic, Albright famously learned of her Jewish ancestry in middle age. She pens a moving portrait of life in the “model” ghetto at Terezín, near Prague, through which her relatives passed on their way to death camps. Centering the book is a searching diplomatic history of Czechoslovakia’s interwar democracy, which was abandoned to Hitler by the West and then snuffed out by Soviet-backed Communists. The story is enriched by Albright’s colorful thumbnails of Eduard Benes, Jan Masaryk, and other principals and by her insights into geopolitics, which yield sympathetic but clear-eyed assessments of the compromises statesmen made to accommodate the ruthless powers surrounding Czechoslovakia. Showing us villainy, heroism, and agonizing moral dilemmas, Albright’s vivid storytelling and measured analysis brings this tragic era to life. Photos. One-day laydown. Represented by Bob Barnett. (Apr. 24)
Library Journal
Most people are aware of the result of the Munich agreement in 1938. Albright (born Marie Jana Korbelová), the first female U.S. secretary of state, provides a deeper account of the Czech Republic's road to independence. From Prague to the Terezin concentration camp (where many of her Jewish relatives perished) to the "winter" of the republic's existence as it endured the dictatorships of the Nazis and then the Communists, Albright details the situations and personalities prominent in this struggle. Though born only the year before the Munich agreement, Albright, the child of a Czech diplomat, has distinct insights into the moral dilemmas confronted by her countrymen. She spent the war in London with the exiled government and provides her childhood impressions of the Blitz. VERDICT Although categorized as a memoir, this book represents history made more vivid by Albright's personal perspective. It serves as a remembrance of the personalities who defined this era, including her father and other Czech democrats who helped create the independent republic after World War I. The accessible style and inclusion of notes and timelines make this an excellent addition to any library. Recommended to all who enjoy reading history from a personal perspective. [See Prepub Alert, 11/21/11.]—Maria Bagshaw, Elgin Community Coll. Lib., IL
Kirkus Reviews
The former U.S. secretary of state blends World War II–era history and memoir in her account of her discovery, at age 59, that she had lost more than two-dozen relatives in the Holocaust. Albright's (Memo to the President Elect: How We Can Restore America's Reputation and Leadership, 2008, etc.) parents had never told her of her Jewish heritage, and in January 1997 she had only recently learned of it when a Washington Post reporter broke the larger story. She spent the ensuing years researching her family's history and the history of her native Czechoslovakia. She was aided in her endeavors by family material she found stored in boxes in her garage--and by a small research team. Born in 1937, the author naturally doesn't remember the war's earliest days, so the initial sections are principally a summary of history of the region and the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. Occasionally, she slips into the first person to talk about the activities of her father, a career diplomat, and her mother, a diplomat's wife but also a woman very interested in the supernatural. The most gripping parts are those personal stories; the others mostly repeat what can be found in many histories of the war and Holocaust. Retellings do not, of course, diminish the horror, but Albright sometimes focuses more on the politics and the war than on the remembrance. The personal passages increase in number and detail as she grows older. Also engaging are the later sections, which deal with the postwar politics in Czechoslovakia, especially the communists' moves to subvert the fledgling democracy. Although much is conventional history, the unconventional--the personal--animates and brightens the narrative.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062030344
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
02/19/2013
Pages:
467
Sales rank:
149,944
Product dimensions:
5.36(w) x 7.86(h) x 1.17(d)

What People are saying about this

Walter Isaacson

“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.

Vaclav Havel

“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.”

Leon Wieseltier

“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.”

Meet the Author

Madeleine Albright served as America's sixty-fourth Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001. Her distinguished career also includes positions on Capitol Hill, the National Security Council, and as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. She is a resident of Washington, D.C., and Virginia.

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Prague Winter 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 60 reviews.
keepssecrt More than 1 year ago
This book is written in the most beautiful voice that I want to start by saying that first. The insights she shares about the behind-the-scenes drama that is the beginning of World War one are intimate and are documented with pictures throughout. To see this event from a Czechoslavian perspective is enriching my understanding and assumptions about the war and the people who lived during this terrible time. It is a very, very good book.
CharliCG More than 1 year ago
A great book for those that like to read about personal history. Written very well and could not put it down.
Genapa More than 1 year ago
A wonderful book by Madeleine Albright. It held my attention throughout the whole story. Such an intelligent woman. I learned so much about Czechoslovakia then & now. I thought I knew everything there was to know about WWII but I surely missed the boat on that one.
Manhattan136 More than 1 year ago
This book is a well written recollection of Czech history from a very personal perspective. Although Ms. Albright's life is intertwined in the book, she very masterfully keeps the context broader. Her observations and commentary as a well respected stateswoman provide just the right amount of opinion that cause readers to question how decisions are made and what really may the affect choices and actions of each of us. Really enjoyed this book, and highly recommend this for anyone who wants to understand the personal experience of Europeans in the WWII era.
aefulmer More than 1 year ago
Great book. Only 98 more pages to go and I started it six days ago. The history is from a different perspective than most Americans are used to reading. It is accessible and approachable for almost anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Madeleine Albright writes an easy to read well researched account of the events in Europe leading up to WWII and its aftermath. However, if you are expecting a story predominately about her family you will be disappointed. The book is more history than her story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a wonderful read. It gives a beautifully clear and focused insight into the period of pre and post war years in Czechoslovakia, along with outstanding recall of the years during WWII. Lessons we must never forget.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A book worth reading. I wanted to write the author and thank her for sharing her family story- it helped me understand the region and how history shaped it.
Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
Prague Win­ter: A Per­sonal Story of Remem­brance and War, 1937–1948 by Madeleine Albright is a non-fiction book in which the author talks about the years men­tioned from her per­spec­tive. Some­what per­sonal, adven­tur­ous and mov­ing, this mem­oir takes the reader on a Euro­pean his­tory les­son which is not often told. "There is not deeper cause for despair than mali­cious hope (Hitler proved that), and few traits more valu­able than sad­ness and anger at suf­fer­ing. The dis­tinc­tion that mat­ters is not whether a story con­cludes hap­pily but whether there is at its core an affir­ma­tion that life has mean­ing. That is why this book of remem­brance and war will end in hope." My grand­fa­ther was born in Bratislava, a city in Czecho­slo­va­kia. He wasn’t very talk­a­tive, my grand­fa­ther, and would answer ques­tions very spar­ingly and it is a shame that I did not ask that many. He passed away many years ago and I would have loved to tour his birth city with him. That is if he was will­ing to do so, he man­aged to escape the Nazi occu­pa­tion as a teenager but never saw his par­ents or sis­ter again who were mur­dered in the con­cen­tra­tion camps (his brother became a par­ti­san and they reunited after the war). That is one of the many rea­sons I wanted to read this book, I wanted to learn more about his­tory which I didn’t even know I was curi­ous about. How­ever, the more I read the book the more I real­ized that I have heard the names of Czech lead­ers and states­man even though I did not know exactly what their con­tri­bu­tions were. Prague Win­ter by Madeleine Albright was a book which sur­prised me from start to fin­ish. At first I thought I was pick­ing up a mem­oir by the famed Sec­re­tary of State about her child­hood, but what I got was a first-class les­son in his­tory before, dur­ing and after World War II from per­spec­tive seen thor­ough Czecho­slo­va­kian eyes. As a daugh­ter of Josef Kör­bel, a Czecho­slo­va­kian diplo­mat, Mrs. Albright has a unique life­time per­spec­tive of the country’s sit­u­a­tion and blends her per­sonal insights into the polit­i­cal dynam­ics which shaped Euro­pean and Amer­i­can poli­cies dur­ing those tur­bu­lent years. The author’s fas­ci­nat­ing nar­ra­tive and per­spec­tive drew me into the book from the first sev­eral pages and engrossed me until the last page. This book should be on the read­ing list of every State Depart­ment employee. The lessons which Ms. Albright brings to the fore­front can save us from the same traps that gave rise to the Nazis and also the com­mu­nists at the end of the war. The book also high­lights indi­vid­ual achieve­ments, where sim­ple peo­ple rise to the occa­sion in small, mean­ing­ful ways which don’t make it to the his­tory books (Jews cre­at­ing a com­mu­nity in a ghetto, Lon­don­ers’ band­ing together dur­ing the bomb­ing, as well as indi­vid­ual diplo­matic achieve­ments for democ­racy) but are inspir­ing and meaningful. The book includes pic­tures from the Kör­bel fam­ily col­lec­tion of peo­ple and events, the writ­ing is amaz­ing and even the foot­notes are superb. Ms. Albright’s grasp of polit­i­cal mea­sures, his­tor­i­cal events and artic­u­late nar­ra­tive makes this book a grip­ping read.
Nocash More than 1 year ago
This was a great book. I visited Prague for 2 days in 2010 while on a whirlwind tour of Europe. It is a beautiful city and I only wish I had read this book prior to my visit because it would have given me more insight into the history and culture of Czechoslovakia.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was history and the facts of life then presented in an open, honest and interesting way. Glad I read it.
RachelGW More than 1 year ago
This book was so wonderful. I saw it while browsing through B&N and just had to grab it...and I'm so glad I did. I'm very interested in WWII history and the Czechs' experience. I spent a semester in Prague during college and this book made me appreciate the county, its history, and people even more than I already did. This book gives a great history and puts an interesting, personal touch on that history. Couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although this was a biography, it gave a take on WWII that I had not heard. The impact on the Czech people and their world views were unknown to me. A worthwhile read if you are interested in a more personal view of history.
JaxJV More than 1 year ago
i realty enjoyed reading this book because it gave mea personal perspective of the History of the Czech Republic showing the fortitude of its citizens during the Naxi. occupation in WWII. My son, John Jr., lives in Prague with his family and I have had the opportunity to visit the many locations described in this book. Madeline Albright is an extraordinary good story=teller John J Vax, Sr.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good account of Czech history especially the WWII years.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great read and my book club's choice. This gives a very good history of Europe in the first half of the 20th century. I loved the pictures. This really brought the characters to life. A significant piece of work for Ms. Albright.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For some time I as traing to buy this book, I live in Mexico and coudnt find it. Right now Im reading it and is a great history of this lady and all the terrible this her family went trought.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had the unique experience of reading this book while on a trip to Prague and East Germany. It is indeed an exceptional book...well written, keenly observant, and deeply personal. I learned far more than I expected about the contributions of many Czech democrats as well as the heart-rending stories of those who did not survive and the cruel exploits of the betrayers of democracy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago