The Zookeeper’s Wife; A War Story by Diane Ackerman. W.W. Norton, 2017 paper. Movie Tie-In. First published in 2007. After the Germans bombed Warsaw including the Warsaw Zoo, Polish zookeepers, Jan and Antonina Zabinski, managed to keep most of the animals alive. Eventually they also began hiding Warsaw’s Jews, saving perhaps three hundred from certain death. Ackerman and the script-writer, Angela Workman, have skillfully woven together this story with the sad history of war-time Warsaw and the fate of Polish Jews in the General Government.
Jan was later a member of the Home Army, part of the Polish resistance. The couple’s two children were involved in Ackerman’s book and the film.
The Zabinskis were honored by the State of Israel as Righteous Gentiles or “Righteous Amongst the Nations.” Ackerman‘s book would also explain the complicated story of Warsaw, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the German and Russian occupation and destruction of the city. The Zoo was located on the east bank of the Vistula, and hence subject to occupation by the Russian army.
Jan Gross, Princeton University, gave an interesting talk in the University of Florida Library on 2 April, “The Jews and their Neighbors in German Occupied Poland.”