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The Zookeeper's Wife

by Diane ACKERMANN

Other authors: Antonina ZABINSKA (Associated Name), Jan ZABINSKI (Associated Name)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,6161962,327 (3.53)319
When Germany invaded Poland, 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 the 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 and refusing to give in to the penetrating fear of discovery, even as Europe crumbled around her.… (more)
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» See also 319 mentions

English (188)  Spanish (2)  Italian (1)  German (1)  All languages (192)
Showing 1-5 of 188 (next | show all)
After watching the movie, which I thought was excellent, I read the book, which I also thought was excellent, but not exactly what I thought it was going to be....just another historical novel.

This is actually a true story of the life of Jan Zabinski and his wife, Antonina, written from the author's point of view, using Jan and Antonina's journals during World War II. It is evident that God must have placed them in just the right place to be able to hide and save hundreds of Jews from death. They also had the right temperament to pull it off.

A lot of research went into their story as the author seamlessly intertwined quotes from their journals and at the same time adding other stories in Warsaw as they unfolded. She also captured the family's love of animals so well. She personalized and gave life to this writing. You will even find a few family photos of Jan & Antonina. She did describe quite a few photos in the story that she had seen but weren't included in the book. I wonder where we can find those photos? If only all history could be told in this manner.

At the end of the book, the author lets you know what happens to Jan and Antonina, and her family, as well as a few other people, after the war. She was also able to travel back to Warsaw and see some of the damage that still remains today, and writes of how they have progressed in building back the city and capital of Poland. ( )
  MissysBookshelf | Aug 27, 2023 |
The full title of this book is The Zoo Keeper's Wife ( A War Story). The first part of the title is well in keeping with the kind of subject matter that has made me a long time favorite of Diane Ackerman. This is a true account of Jan & Antonia Zabinsky keepers of the Warsaw Zoo before Hitler and the Nazis invaded Poland. Once the invasion takes place the zoo is destroyed and most of the animals are either killed outright or shipped to German Zoos. The few remaining animals become household pets of the Zabinsky's villa which turns into a safe house for members of the Warsaw resistance. Ironically,with the horrific depravity of the War waging outside the zoo gates, taking care of the remaining animals is one of the few ways in which the characters are able to maintain their humanity.
The book went back & forth from the relative calmness of life at the zoo, to the horrors facing the people of the Warsaw ghetto.
And this is where I had a problem with the book. It's like Ackerman couldn't decide on whether she wanted to write a serious account of the Warsaw ghetto or a light and airy treatise on the antics of the animals inhabiting the Zabinsky villa. I often felt that the harrowing depictions of The Warsaw Ghetto immediately followed by some amusing anecdote about a tipsy hamster or a bunch crumb eating parakeets, trivialized what happened in the ghetto. ( )
  kevinkevbo | Jul 14, 2023 |
2.5 stars. I listened to the audiobook. It took me some time to figure out that when the reader slipped into accented English, she was narrating a direct quote from Antonina Zabinski's journals. This was a bit distracting. Overall, I'm sure the Zabinski's role in harboring Jews at their Zoo property was heroic and fascinating, but this book did not make their story vivid or bring it to life in any way. ( )
  CarolHicksCase | Mar 12, 2023 |
True story of Jan and Antonina Żabiński, the zookeeper and his wife, and how they saved hundreds of Jews during WWII in Warsaw. Themes include compassionate heroism, the human-animal connection, and the many ways to resist oppression. The author uses descriptive and poetic language to depict the scenes. I believe she was trying to relate the entirety of life in Warsaw at the time, not solely focusing on the specific story of Antonina her family. The narrative was interspersed with facts about the times in a mix of journalistic and novelistic prose. I learned a lot about the Polish Underground, entomology, animal behaviors, coping mechanisms for constant peril, and much more. I knew, of course, about the Nazi obsession with “pure Aryan” people but was previously unaware that the same fanaticism extended to animals and plants. I have read many true and fictional stories about WWII, and this book is a welcome addition to the canon, telling of a previously little-known resistance effort. It is a heroic story of people who had the courage to practice human decency and kindness at great personal risk. Recommended to those interested in the history of WWII. Contains graphic violence against people and animals. ( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
I gave this book 134 pages and then I just couldn't do it anymore. I really wanted to read this story but there was so much superfluous stuff, that in my opinion did not contribute to the story, that made it a chore to read. The point for me when I gave up was after the 1.25 pages of the names of different types of beetles. ( )
  LittleSpeck | May 17, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 188 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
ACKERMANN, Dianeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
ZABINSKA, AntoninaAssociated Namesecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
ZABINSKI, JanAssociated Namesecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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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When Germany invaded Poland, 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 the 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 and refusing to give in to the penetrating fear of discovery, even as Europe crumbled around her.

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Book description
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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W.W. Norton

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

Editions: 0393061728, 039333306X

 

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