The near-total abduction of the Warsaw flock left a set of buildings and the surrounding grounds almost vacant— which made it a very effective hiding place for Jews escaping the monstrous consequences of German imperialism.
The effort to save those targeted by the Nazis involved far more than a few heroic individuals. Mada Walter, who helped many Jews "pass," giving "lessons on how to appear Aryan and not attract notice. While some critics might feel she glosses over Polish anti-Semitism, Ackerman has done an invaluable service in bringing a little-known story of heroism and compassion to light.
Many of the animals were taken by a Nazi officer who happened to be in charge of a zoo in Germany. It takes a village to save lives.
The cruelties of the past remain with us in diverse forms. How do you retain a spirit of affection and humor in a crazed, homicidal, unpredictable society? In fact, her over-tight focus on Antonina directly evolves from that perspective: Not to be discouraged from becoming more involved in the Resistance Movement, savvy Jan creates a ploy to put the zoo to use in a seemingly benign manner—he offers to turn it into a pig farm to feed the many German troops stationed in Warsaw.
She was not, as her husband once called her, "a housewife," but the alpha female in a unique menagerie. So we know that Jan quit the zoo over frustration with Soviet interference, and that both of them wrote books, but not how or when they died.
She interviewed the survivors she could find and conducted considerable research to make sure she got the details right. The complexity of the operation was significant. Otherwise, OMG, what a story!
And not all of the chapters are all that informative. In the early s, Jan and Antonina Zabinski ran the Warsaw Zoo and lived on the premises, tending the animals in the collection and laboring, with love, toward a more humane way of preserving wildlife through natural enclosures.
There she meets kindhearted, generous individuals who are willing to share whatever they have with those in need of shelter and other essentials. Antonina grew up under more harrowing circumstances. The zoo functioned as a way-station where Jews fleeing the ghetto could stay until more permanent shelter could be identified by other people and organizations in the widespread Polish resistance.
Many of them had assumed that Poland possessed the military strength to defend itself and that their allies would immediately come to their aid. Then, able to adopt their fighting instinct, she arose as a fearless defender of her kind. Some chapters are timestamped with a year, which helps, although one timestamp seems to be wrong.
It required the knowing cooperation of tens of thousands of individuals who knew that they would be killed if discovered. What is amazing here is how, in such a dark time, there can also have been so many experiences of joy, however fleeting. You will be reminded of other heroes of this and other wars.
It seems a shame, really, to note quibbles in such a book, overpowering as the story and message are, but there are a couple. The inspiration is unmistakable. For some weekends, she travels back to Warsaw to spend time with Jan, who keeps her abreast of the rising turmoil between Germany and the rest of Europe.
At the time, Antonina was only a young girl and went to live with her aunt in Warsaw. In that context it makes sense that there is such strong emphasis on plants and animals and the changing of the seasons, but a little more writerly discipline would have stopped Ackerman from pushing the larger historical frames quite so far into her margins.
Ackerman has a wonderful tale to tell, and she tells it wonderfully. These sorts of omissions are puzzling and disappointing.Nature is patient, people and animals fundamentally decent, and the writer, as she always does, outlives the killer—that is the message of The Zookeeper's Wife.
This is an absorbing book, diminished sometimes by the choppy way Ackerman balances Antonina's account with the larger story of the Warsaw Holocaust/5(). Parents need to know that The Zookeeper's Wife is an intense, sometimes-brutal drama based on the true story (which inspired Diane Ackerman's same-named book) of a couple who helped save hundreds of Warsaw Jews during World War II.
The Zookeeper's Wife will touch every nerve you have. Dava Sobel, author of The Planets and Galileo's Daughter mint-body.com does one read a book in which the.
The Zookeeper's Wife is now a major motion picture starring Jessica Chastain, and JBC Book Clubs has created a book club kit for movie tie-in edition. Read the book, see the movie, and discuss how the two at your next book club meeting.
In The Zookeeper’s Wife, naturalist writer Diane Ackerman seamlessly weaves together the memoirs, recollections, stories, and interviews with Jan and Antonina Żabiński to provide her readers. The true story of The Zookeeper’s Wife is an arresting, if somewhat familiar, narrative of heroism in the Second World War.
Antonina and Jan Żabiński, the owners and operators of the Warsaw.Download