Madeleine Albright, flanked by grandmothers Růžena Spieglová (left) and Olga Körbelová.(Courtesy Madeleine Albright and Harper Collins)

In 1996, just as the Honorable Madeleine Korbelova Albright was confirmed as secretary of State—the country’s first woman to hold that post—revelations came to light that her Czech parents, neither of whom were living by then, had been born Jews.

Josef and Anna (née Spieglová) Korbel converted to Catholicism in 1941, when Josef was working for the exiled Czech government in London. The information, which Albright learned of just a few months before it was made public, raised many questions: Why had her parents converted, and why had they never told her? Why had she never figured it out? And what happened to the relatives who remained in Czechoslovakia during World War II and after? It was only when her term as secretary of State ended that Albright was able to pursue answers to these questions in earnest. In her new book, Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, she chronicles her search and the answers she found. She joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to talk about what it was like to learn of her family background at age 59, and about what she’s done with this knowledge in the intervening years. Albright also talks about why Hillary Clinton has a harder job than she did. [Running time: 16:09.]


Like this article? Sign up for our Daily Digest to get Tablet Magazine’s new content in your inbox each morning.