Madeleine Albright, the first woman to hold the position of U.S. secretary of state, has died of cancer at the age of 84.
A statement posted on Twitter said that Albright was “surrounded by family and friends” and that she was “a loving mother, grandmother, sister and friend,” as well as a “tireless champion of democracy and human rights.”
Born Marie Jana Korbelova in Prague—then Czechoslovakia in 1937—she came to the United States as a refugee in 1948. She eventually rose to the heights of American foreign policymaking as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 1993 to 1997, and secretary of state from 1997 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton.
However, it was not until after she became secretary of state that she learned that her family was Jewish, and her parents had converted to Roman Catholicism during World War II. She also discovered that 26 family members, including three grandparents, were murdered in the Holocaust.
“The impact that she has had on this building is felt every single day in just about every single corridor,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said of Albright.
In her positions within the Clinton administration, Albright played a key role in major foreign policy decisions, from the Rwandan genocide to the conflict in the Balkans. As the U.S.’s top diplomat, she made little progress in implementing the 1993 Oslo Accords that established self-rule for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. However, she played a leading role with the Wye Accords in 1998 that turned over control of roughly 40 percent of the West Bank, also known as Judea and Samaria, to the Palestinians. She also spearheaded a failed effort to negotiate a 2000 peace deal between Israel and Syria.
In a statement, officials of the Democratic Majority for Israel mourned her passing, saying they were “heartbroken.”
“As our nation’s top diplomat, she broke barriers and fought for human rights at home and abroad,” said DMFI co-chairs Ann Lewis and Todd Richman, and president and CEO Mark Mellman.
“A refugee from Nazi Germany and Soviet communism, she was tough, courageous and a clear-speaking believer in democracy. Her moral leadership and courage will be an inspiration for generations to come,” they continued. “We’re indebted to her for her service to America.”
Israel’s President Isaac Herzog also expressed his condolences on her passing.
“Saddened by the passing of Secretary Madeleine Albright, a groundbreaking diplomat, feminist icon and outstanding leader, whom I always admired. Our last correspondence was when she graciously congratulated me on my election. She was a true friend of Israel and we will miss her.”