Friday, February 22, 2013

13. Prague Winter

A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948

By:  Madeline Albright
Rated: 5 Stars
Hardback and Audiobook

A very good friend recommended this book to me and even loaned me a copy of it because she thought I would like it.  She was right.  I liked it so much I used one of my audible credits to purchase it in audio format.  I am so glad I did because the books was read by Madeline Albright herself.

This book is basically a history of Czechoslovakia during the periods before, during and after WW2.  I found this interesting because the events leading up to both wars and their aftermaths have had a lot of impact on where we find ourselves today.  It's my contention that you cannot fully understand what is happening around you today unless you know what happened yesterday.  That's just my personal take however and probably an excuse to myself for my fascination with conflict when I consider myself to be a pacifist.

By reading the book herself and thereby describing the events in her own voice she transformed the story from being dry history into her story.  Sometimes you could tell by her voice that many of the events she was describing were very painful.  I especially enjoyed the parts relating to her childhood during WWII.  The one thing that I do not understand is why her parents kept so much of her families personal history from their children.  I am sure they had their reasons but still it is hard for me to understand.  I am about seven years younger than Madeline Albright but I still have some very vivid memories of those days.  But I grew up in the oh so safe American mid-west so if I have memories I can imagine that people who lived through those times must have memories vivid enough to evoke some strong emotions.

Publisher's Summary

Before Madeleine Albright turned twelve, her life was shaken by the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia - the country where she was born - the Battle of Britain, the near total destruction of European Jewry, the Allied victory in World War II, the rise of communism, and the onset of the Cold War.
Albright's experiences, and those of her family, provide a lens through which to view the most tumultuous dozen years in modern history. Drawing on her memory, her parents' written reflections, interviews with contemporaries, and newly available documents, Albright recounts a tale that is by turns harrowing and inspiring. Prague Winter is an exploration of the past with timeless dilemmas in mind and, simultaneously, a journey with universal lessons that is intensely personal.
The book takes readers from the Bohemian capital's thousand-year-old castle to the bomb shelters of London, from the desolate prison ghetto of TerezÍn to the highest councils of European and American government. Albright reflects on her discovery of her family's Jewish heritage many decades after the war, on her Czech homeland's tangled history, and on the stark moral choices faced by her parents and their generation. Often relying on eyewitness descriptions, she tells the story of how millions of ordinary citizens were ripped from familiar surroundings and forced into new roles as exiled leaders and freedom fighters, resistance organizers and collaborators, victims and killers. These events of enormous complexity are nevertheless shaped by concepts familiar to any growing child: fear, trust, adaptation, the search for identity, the pressure to conform, the quest for independence, and the difference between right and wrong.
"No one who lived through the years of 1937 to 1948," Albright writes, "was a stranger to profound sadness. Millions of innocents did not survive, and their deaths must never be forgotten. Today we lack the power to reclaim lost lives, but we have a duty to learn all that we can about what happened and why." At once a deeply personal memoir and an incisive work of history, Prague Winter serves as a guide to the future through the lessons of the past - as seen through the eyes of one of the international community's most respected and fascinating figures.