Because both of Albright's parents died before their daughter was named secretary of state, she'll never know definitively why they remained silent or why they made another controversial decision.

In May 1941, the Korbels and their 3-year-old daughter were baptized into the Roman Catholic Church, which at times during its 2,000-year history has demonized Jews.

"I was a very serious Catholic," Albright said. The family celebrated Christmas. The girl had an altar in her bedroom and harbored aspirations of growing up to become a priest. As "Prague Winter" makes clear, neither Albright's parents nor their extended family were particularly observant when they lived in Czechoslovakia. In addition, she said, the information available to her parents in 1941 was limited.

"My parents converted to Catholicism before anyone knew about the camps," she said. "I don't think that in their wildest dreams they imagined how barbaric the Nazis were."

In retrospect, Albright has come to realize "the democratic, humanist values" inculcated in her by both parents stemmed in part from their personal tragedy. And in turn, the parents' values helped form their daughter's foreign policy. When Albright was secretary of state, for instance, she was one of the leading advocates for using force to end the war in Bosnia.

"I would presume that yes, their background did influence my political philosophy," she said. "When I first became interested in Bosnia, I didn't know that ... my family heritage was Jewish. But my parents obviously did, and the inheritance I received from them includes a commitment to freedom and to human rights.

"My parents are long dead, but I'm still trying to be the perfect daughter. I still want to make them proud."

mary.mccauley@baltsun.com

If you go

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will discuss her new memoir, "Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948" at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, 400 Cathedral St. Free. For information, call 410-545-5430 or go to prattlibrary.org.

Madeleine Albright

Age: 74 (She turns 75 on May 15)

Birthplace: Prague, Czechoslovakia

Birth name: Marie Jana Korbelova

Education: Bachelor's degree, Wellesley College; master's and doctorate, Columbia University

Awards: Has been chosen by President Barack Obama to receive the Medal of Freedom later this year.

Career highlights: Served as the first female U.S. secretary of state, 1997-2001; U.S. representative to the United Nations, 1993-1997.

Personal: Divorced, three grown daughters

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