Madeleine Albright (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: As ambassador to the United Nations and as the first woman to hold the office of secretary of state, Albright helped to shape a foreign policy emphasizing an activist role for the United States.
Madeleine Korbel was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in 1937, shortly before Nazi Germany took control of the country. Her father, Josef Korbel, was an intellectual and a member of the Czech diplomatic corps. Her mother, Anna Speeglova Korbel, was the daughter of a prosperous family who gave birth to two other children, Katherine Korbel Silva and John Joseph Korbel. Madeleine’s grandparents were Jewish, and three of them died in the Holocaust—a fact Albright revealed only after her appointment as secretary of state. Her parents converted to Catholicism, apparently to escape persecution, and Madeleine grew up celebrating Christian rituals such as Christmas and Easter.
Madeleine’s earliest experiences were shaped by World War II. When German agents took power in Czechoslovakia in 1938, her father, an outspoken opponent of the Nazis, was targeted for execution. While Josef Korbel tried to get false diplomatic papers that would get his family out of the country, he and his wife walked the streets of Prague with the infant Madeleine, making sure they stayed in public places where the Nazis would not assault him. They were able to escape to England; Madeleine later recalled staying in...
(The entire section is 2534 words.)
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