By Wolf Blitzer, CNN
(CNN) – Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has written a very powerful new book on the Holocaust and her Jewish heritage. She didn’t know her parents were Jewish until she was 59 years old and about to become President Bill Clinton’s secretary of state.
“I had no idea that my family heritage was Jewish or that more than twenty of my relatives had died in the Holocaust,” she writes in “Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948."
She adds: “I had been raised a Roman Catholic and upon marriage converted to the Episcopalian faith. I had – I was sure – a Slavic soul.”
But while serving as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, she began receiving letters from people who had known her parents during World War II. “I was shocked and, to be honest, embarrassed to discover that I had not known my family history better; my sister and brother shared this emotion. … I also felt driven to learn more about the grandparents whom I had been too young to know – especially since by then I had become a grandparent myself.”
Her new book is the result of that intensive search. She recounts amazing details as a result of access to sensitive government documents about her parents – documents that she discovered in Prague. “I feel an obligation I can never repay to those who helped me learn more about my family and what they experienced.”
Her parents passed away before she could discuss any of this with them, but she’s blunt in guessing why her parents never told her about being Jewish.
“I expect that my parents thought life would be easier for us if we were raised as Christians instead of Jews,” she writes.
“Celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah with my grandchildren, I have reasons for gratitude that my origins are richer and more complex than I had thought; but still, I wish my parents would have explained to me, when I was old enough to understand, what they had done. I would like to have had a chance to discuss every aspect of their deliberations.”
The former Secretary of State joins me today in The Situation Room.
Follow Wolf on Twitter: @WolfBlitzerCNN
Follow The Situation Room on Facebook: Facebook.com/CNNSituationRoom