Recommended by Lucy Librarian

Warsaw Zoo, an unusual hiding place, was the jewel of Warsaw before the German occupation of Poland during World War II. It was esteemed by all zoo managers and aficionados of Europe and thus spared the worst treatment. Zookeepers Antonio and Jan Zabinski made good use of the animal enclosures for numerous “guests”, mostly escaping Jews. Their nearby home provided more comfortable quarters for those able to hide in plain sight. And between their Villa and the zoo there were underground rooms and tunnels.

Antonia managed to keep the Germans away with the combination of subterfuge and pleasantness. She built on prior relationships with German zookeepers, specialists who had been drafted by Hitler to create a showcase zoo and animal breeding program for Germany. She was clever enough to entertain German officers while “guests” hid in her home.

Somehow, she and her family and friends of the Polish underground conspired to provide food, shelter and eventual escape for their “guests” – and also for the various lesser creatures who lived inside their home. A badger, a chicken, a monkey toddler, and a raven; for example.

Descriptions of daily life under German occupation and the horrors of the ghetto provide background. Reconstructions of Anthony’s appreciation of nature, of animal life, and even recreations of prehistoric animals bred by Hitler’s scientists complete the story.

This is a description of “The Zookeepers Wife” by Diane Ackerman, copyright 2007, nonfiction, Marquette library.


Contributed by:  Lucy Riegel (aka Lucy Librarian)

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