About the book: A true story — as powerful as Schindler's List— in which 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.
With her exuberant prose and exquisite sensitivity to the natural world, Diane Ackerman engages us viscerally in the lives of the zoo animals, their keepers, and their hidden visitors. She shows us how Antonina refused to give in to the penetrating fear of discovery, keeping alive an atmosphere of play and innocence even as Europe crumbled around her.
Quotes from book: "Under the Third Reich, animals became noble, mythic, almost angelic--including humans, of course, but not Slavs, Gypsies, Catholics, or Jews."
"In all around 300 people passed through the way station of the Warsaw zoo on route to the rest of their nomadic lives. Jan always felt, and said publicly, that the real heroin on this saga was his wife, Antonina."
My Thoughts: I listened to this on my iPod and found it to be very interesting and heartbreaking. The story of the Zabinskis is remarkable deserves to be told. The zookeeper, Jan, became active in the underground and his wife, Antonina, devised intricate strategies to shelter Jews as they were able to taken from the Warsaw ghetto across the river. I liked learning about this family and other heroes of that horrible time.
Click HERE to see an interivew with the author about this book.
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co. (September 17, 2008)