Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948
Madeleine Albright has written a book that mixes family memoir with Czech/European history, heavy on the history. Albright’s father, Josef Korbel, was a Czechoslovakian diplomat and part of the exiled government in London during WWII – giving Albright personal access to the era’s highest levels of government even beyond what she would have as U.S. Secretary of State. Albright mined her memories and her parents’ writings; she interviewed people who were there; she obtained access to previously unavailable documents; and then she put it all together in a dense yet readable history/memoir of Czechoslovakia and its defenders from 1937 to 1948.
Chapters are given to Czech history, to brutal Nazi politics, and to diplomatic machinations; but for me the best were chapters devoted to Terezín, a prison camp where most of her Jewish family was sent (and none returned), and also those chapters on her own family’s life in England – and then their return to Czechoslovakia after the war and their eventual flight to the United States. Albright also discusses unanswerable Sophie’s Choice-type moral dilemmas that faced the Nazis’ victims.
Parts of Prague Winter are a slog. Their reward is that those sections enrich the enormously moving and thought-provoking personal sections.