Michele Grimmett's Reviews > Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948

Prague Winter by Madeleine K. Albright
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May 24, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: world-war-ii
Read from May 17 to 24, 2012

This is a story about what happens when a person is caught completely by surprise by family history. Refreshingly, the narrator has very little role in the unfolding events. Former Secretary of State Albright reflects on her parents, especially her father's role as a member of the Czechoslovakian government in power and in exile. Since she was very young during WWII, her personal memories of that time are limited; her father's job allows the reader to understand events at that time in a country that doesn't often receive the focus of attention. We are introduced to the history of Czechoslovakia, its betrayal by Britain prior to invasion in WWII, and the rebuilding of the country. We become familiar with the heroes and leading political figures.

Woven into this fabric is the considerable surprise of discovering her family's Jewish roots and finding them among the victims of the Holocaust. ALbright's memories of these lost family members are again quite limited by her age and having been taken to live in other countries for her father's job. This doesn't mean an emotional disconnect from the subject matter, however; she describes an unpublished novel written by her father as apparent catharsis in which the main character returns home to discover his parents were killed in the Holocaust. She and her siblings have also managed to discover the paths of some of their family prior to their deaths.

I had only a passing understanding of the role of Czechoslovakia at this time, but my ignorance has been cured easily. However, it isn't easy to read this book; rage against the appeasement of Hitler, the machinations of Hitler and Stalin, and the feeling of helplessness against so much evil are emotions easily rekindled from other histories. There is less personal emotion in this memoir for the Holocaust victims than in a standard memoir of this time. I was very interested in Albright's thoughts on what to take away from the study of history and the lingering damage felt from that time. (For example, when she told her mother she was in love with a man named Albright, her mother was relieved that it wasn't Albricht.) She doesn't flinch from offering a balanced assessment of good and bad intentions and actions, expecially following WWII. Anyone looking for an engrossing read, a history of Central Europe before, during, and after WWII, or a discussion of the continuing impact of the Holocaust can find that and more in this volume.
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