Friday, November 19, 2010

The Zookeeper's Wife

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman

Jan and Antonina Zabinski are the keepers of the Warsaw zoo when WWII starts and Poland is invaded. Their life before the invasion is a life of caring for the animals even to the point of keeping sick animals in their home with them to heal and recover. The Germans move into Warsaw and set up their headquarters right beside the zoo.

As the war progresses and the Warsaw Ghetto is created, the resistance movement becomes stronger and Jan and Antonia become involved. They house many Jews over the course of the war some for longer periods and some for very short periods. They house resistance workers. They use the former houses of the animals and the bombed out structures of the zoo. They had 'lost' their animals to German zookeepers who came and looted the animals.

This is a true story and one can only wonder at the bravery of this couple. This book depicts the hatred of the Germans for not only the Jews but also the Poles. The horror and absolute terror the Germans used is sickening. I did not realize the Germans were also interested in the perfection of certain animal species.

This story is an interesting one but at times the author got bogged down in details of natural history. The insect collection of a Pole was described for pages. I found the writing to be a bit choppy and scattered. I would also have liked to hear more about the Zabinskis after the war.

First Line: "At dawn in an outlying district of Warsaw, sunlight swarmed around the trunks of blooming linden trees and crept up the white walls of the 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 chair."


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