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The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
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The Zookeeper's Wife

by Diane Ackerman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,3131672,362 (3.55)273
  1. 101
    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (meggyweg)
  2. 20
    The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945 by Władysław Szpilman (booklove2)
  3. 00
    Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky (sweetbug)
    sweetbug: Both are about women living in German occupied territory during WWII.
  4. 02
    Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (sweetbug)
    sweetbug: Sarah's Key is a work of fiction based on an actual event that took place in France. Both books deal with little-known stories of women/girls trying to keep others safe during the Holocaust; both examine the terrible physical and emotional toll this action takes on the female protagonist.… (more)
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English (163)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  All languages (165)
Showing 1-5 of 163 (next | show all)
This is the story of Antonina Zabinski and her husband Jan, the director of the Warsaw Zoo, and their courageous sheltering and rescue of more than three hundred Jews as well as members of the Polish resistance during the World War II German resistance. Antonina's diaries are the main source, supplemented by other contemporary sources and Diane Ackerman's own research in Poland.

The Zabinskis were zookeepers by choice and vocation, caring deeply for the animals that were their responsibility as well as the healthy survival of at-risk species. Their pre-war home was alive with animals, both domestic and "wild," as Antonina nurtured orphans and nursed ailing or injured animals, as well as relatives, friends, and their own young son. The outbreak of war sees the slow destruction of everything they have loved, as the zoo is bombed, animals killed, and many of the dangerous animals shot by the Polish military to prevent their escaping and becoming a threat. Then the Germans move in, and things get even worse. The zoo is closed, and the animals of value taken for the Berlin Zoo. Antonina spends weeks not knowing where Jan, a reserve officer who naturally rejoined his army unit with the start of the war, is, or whether he is even alive. When he successfully makes his way back to her, they are not out of the woods. The occupation has barely begun.

Jan is a member of the resistance, and Antonina actively assists him in hiding Jews, and smuggling them out, as well as providing cover and assistance to other members of the resistance. They have the zoo land, and start a pig farm to cover the growing of food to be distributed in the Warsaw ghetto, where Jews are forced to try to survive on little more than a hundred calories a day. They hide people within their home and withing the remaining zoo buildings, and maintain an active social life with lots of visitors and guests, to ensure that they don't have a predictable pattern of activity and to make the presence of "extra" people less obvious. Conditions continue to get harsher and harsher, and the possibility of discovery ever more terrifying, while Jan and Antonina work to keep life, laughter, decency, and humanity alive in the midst of horror.

Highly recommended. ( )
  LisCarey | Sep 19, 2018 |
There are so many heroic tales of people whose greater human nature caused them to put themselves in harm's way to help others evade the horrors of the Holocaust. Antonina and Jan Zabinski use their small Polish zoo and their large hearts to help the Jewish resistance move people out of harm's way in pre WW II Poland.
This is one of the stories that make up the history of the world. ( )
  CYGeeker | Sep 6, 2018 |
Too much description. She describes everything in minute detail. I don't care what the flowers are like or what Antonia's slippers look and feel like. There just was no continuous story to enjoy. It was constantly interrupted by description I kept waiting for action that never came. I was looking forward to reading this. Hope the movie is better
  Catsysta | Aug 5, 2018 |
I gave this book 4 stars simply because of the historical content, it is so important to read and know about the atrocities committed by the Nazis and the sacrifices made by people trying to save as many Jews as possible. It was heart wrenching listening to descriptions of the 'jewish ghetto' and the slaughtering of thousands of innocent people. That being said, the author spent too much time describing every single animal in the zoo and redundant lists upon lists of flowers, food and other unnecessary details that did not add to the story, while leaving many unanswered questions about Jan and Antonina and their son and daughter. The writing style was odd in that she shifted from writing historical-fiction to historical non-fiction in the middle of a paragraph. I loved the 'story' and appreciate the author for bringing the Zabinski's life and sacrifices, in saving hundreds of Jews, to the attention of millions of people, but it could have been brilliant instead of just good with better execution.
P.S. I would recommend as required reading for all high school students, perhaps a condensed version.
( )
  almin | Jul 29, 2018 |
This was a free listen with Amazon Prime. The voice was really easy to listen to. I found myself a little lost with the names since I was listening rather than reading. I'm not great with names, to begin with, so foreign names are even harder. That's not a knock against the book, that's just me. Having said that, I love books that talk about real heroes, people who take major risks just to help others. It is clear that the zookeepers both had hearts to save animals and people alike. Now, I need to watch the movie! ( )
  Lisa5127 | Jun 2, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 163 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Diane Ackermanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bachman, Barbara M.Designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bais, AmyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fortún Menor, GloriaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Naegele, ChristineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ratchford, PattiCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ravnild, Louise ArdenfeltTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Toren, SuzanneNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Antonina and her family, human and animal
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At dawn in an outlying district of Warsaw, sunlight swarmed around the trunks of blooming linden trees and crept up the white walls of a 1930s stucco and glass villa where the zoo director and his wife slept in a bed crafted from white birch, a pale wood used in canoes, tongue depressors, and Windsor chairs.
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Relates the story of Jan and Antonina Zabinski, Christian zookeepers at the Warsaw Zoo, who helped save the lives of approximately three hundred Polish Jews during World War II by housing and feeding them on zoo grounds and teaching them how to "pass" as Aryan.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 039333306X, Paperback)

Amazon Significant Seven, September 2007: On the heels of Alan Weisman's The World Without Us I picked up Diane Ackerman's The Zookeeper’s Wife. Both books take you to Poland's forest primeval, the Bialowieza, and paint a richly textured portrait of a natural world that few of us would recognize. The similarities end there, however, as Ackerman explores how that sense of natural order imploded under the Nazi occupation of Poland. Jan and Antonina Zabiniski--keepers of the Warsaw Zoo who sheltered Jews from the Warsaw ghetto--serve as Ackerman's lens to this moment in time, and she weaves their experiences and reflections so seamlessly into the story that it would be easy to read the book as Antonina's own miraculous memoir. Jan and Antonina's passion for life in all its diversity illustrates ever more powerfully just how narrow the Nazi worldview was, and what tragedy it wreaked. The Zookeeper’s Wife is a powerful testament to their courage and--like Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise--brings this period of European history into intimate view. --Anne Bartholomew

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:04 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The true story of how the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo saved hundreds of people from Nazi hands. When Germany invaded Poland, Stuka bombers devastated Warsaw--and the city's zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski began smuggling Jews into empty cages. Another dozen "guests" hid inside the Zabinskis' villa, emerging after dark for dinner, socializing, and, during rare moments of calm, piano concerts. Jan, active in the Polish resistance, kept ammunition buried in the elephant enclosure and stashed explosives in the animal hospital. Meanwhile, Antonina kept her unusual household afloat, caring for both its human and its animal inhabitants--otters, a badger, hyena pups, lynxes--and keeping alive an atmosphere of play and innocence even as Europe crumbled around her.--From publisher description.… (more)

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W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393061728, 039333306X

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