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The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story by Diane…
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The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story (edition 2008)

by Diane Ackerman (Author)

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4,8511982,350 (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)
Member:EHubbard13
Title:The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story
Authors:Diane Ackerman (Author)
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2008), Edition: Reprint, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
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Work Information

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane ACKERMANN

  1. 111
    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. 22
    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)
  4. 00
    Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky (sweetbug)
    sweetbug: Both are about women living in German occupied territory during WWII.
  5. 00
    The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom (TheLittlePhrase)
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» See also 319 mentions

English (192)  Spanish (2)  Italian (1)  German (1)  All languages (196)
Showing 1-5 of 192 (next | show all)
I picked this up at a library book sale. I'd heard a lot about it, but (as I do) had resisted reading it when it was a bestseller and the topic of universal raves. I was also familiar with the author, but as a poet, not a historian.

The topic is interesting: On the eve of World War II, Antonina and Jan own and run the Warsaw Zoo. The zoo is bombed by the Nazis, many of the animals die, and the couple create a haven for Jews to hide in the empty buildings and maintenance tunnels beneath the zoo. As Jan works for the Polish underground, Antonina struggles to run the safe house, raise her children, feed all the people, and keep it all hidden from the patrolling Germans.

The story is dramatic and heroic, ordinary people doing extraordinary things in a time of immense danger and privation. Rings all my bells. But what disappointed me was the prose. It's very straightforward and matter of fact. Even stilted in some places. I expected more from a poet, honestly. I get that this is non-fiction, but that doesn't mean you can't have compelling prose.

Despite this issue, I still enjoyed the story and marveled anew at humanity's capacity for extremes of both brutality and grace. I also learned some things about zookeeping and exotic animal breeding. ( )
  TheGalaxyGirl | Jun 2, 2024 |
I have nothing untoward to say about this book, it was certainly well-written and incredibly well-researched, but it missed the mark for me. I believe it was a difficult subject, to write a book about an unpublished journal that isn’t yours, but I expected more. I wanted less detail - which is an odd thing to want in a book. If there is such a thing, I was inundated with too much minutia about everything. Praises for Ms. Ackerman, just not my style of book; the real and only reason for a lesser star review. ( )
  LyndaWolters1 | Apr 3, 2024 |
I always enjoy Ackerman's book, and this one even more than many of her others. There was less of the author herself permeating the pages the characters and story were allowed to take center stage ( )
  cspiwak | Mar 6, 2024 |
Antonina Zabinski loved living and working at the Warsaw Zoo. Described as a housewife, a mother, and a zookeeper, Antonina's magical life in the Warsaw Zoo was everything she dreamed of until the Germans invaded Poland in 1939.

As fear descended upon Poland, Antonina’s husband, Jan, couldn’t let people or animals suffer and wanted to help as many Jews as possible. Together, the couple devised a plan using the zoo as camouflage to hide people.

Overseeing daily life at the zoo was Antonina’s job. A woman of opposites: empathy and bravery, innocence and fierce protector, Antonina kept their Guests hidden and safe. She never revealed her fears or made anyone feel unworthy. Remarkably courageous and dedicated, Antonina wove a web of lies and managed to keep everyone fed.

As they confronted many challenges along the way, the Zabinskis were a bright light in the darkness of war.

The Bottom Line: What makes this book different from some other books about the Holocaust is the focus on compassion and self-sacrifice. The Zabinski family were in a special position to help others despite the personal risks involved.

For the complete review including Book Club Notes, please visit the Mini Book Bytes Book Review Blog.
As a naturalist, author Diane Ackerman brings an unique perspective to her writing, which helps her convey relationships between organisms and their environment. Besides telling the story of the Zabinski family and their heroic actions, this book also includes the stories about other historical figures during that time.

Highly recommended as significant reading for those interested in understanding history, war, human behavior, and animal behavior. ( )
  aya.herron | Mar 4, 2024 |
This is one of those gems that I would never had known about were it not for a wonderful online book club. I love stories like this: about the smaller-scale heroes of WWII. Regular people who did what they could in the face of extraordinary evil. It's a story that serves to be known and I enjoyed it immensely. ( )
  GordCampbell | Dec 20, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 192 (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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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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