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The Zookeeper's Wife
Cover of The Zookeeper's Wife
The Zookeeper's Wife
A War Story
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Jan and Antonina Zabinski were Polish Christian zookeepers horrified by Nazi racism, who managed to save over three hundred people. Yet their story has fallen between the seams of history.

Drawing on Antonina's diary and other historical sources, bestselling naturalist Diane Ackerman vividly re-creates Antonina's life as "the zookeeper's wife," responsible for her own family, the zoo animals, and their "guests": resistance activists and refugee Jews, many of whom Jan had smuggled from the Warsaw Ghetto.

Jan led a cell of saboteurs, and the Zabinski's young son risked his life carrying food to the guests, while also tending to an eccentric array of creatures in the house (pigs, hare, muskrat, foxes, and more). With hidden people having animal names, and pet animals having human names, it's a small wonder the zoo's code name became "The House under a Crazy Star." Yet there is more to this story than a colorful cast. With her exquisite sensitivity to the natural world, Ackerman explores the role of nature in both kindness and savagery, and she unravels the fascinating and disturbing obsession at the core of Nazism: both a worship of nature and its violation, as humans sought to control the genome of the entire planet.

Jan and Antonina Zabinski were Polish Christian zookeepers horrified by Nazi racism, who managed to save over three hundred people. Yet their story has fallen between the seams of history.

Drawing on Antonina's diary and other historical sources, bestselling naturalist Diane Ackerman vividly re-creates Antonina's life as "the zookeeper's wife," responsible for her own family, the zoo animals, and their "guests": resistance activists and refugee Jews, many of whom Jan had smuggled from the Warsaw Ghetto.

Jan led a cell of saboteurs, and the Zabinski's young son risked his life carrying food to the guests, while also tending to an eccentric array of creatures in the house (pigs, hare, muskrat, foxes, and more). With hidden people having animal names, and pet animals having human names, it's a small wonder the zoo's code name became "The House under a Crazy Star." Yet there is more to this story than a colorful cast. With her exquisite sensitivity to the natural world, Ackerman explores the role of nature in both kindness and savagery, and she unravels the fascinating and disturbing obsession at the core of Nazism: both a worship of nature and its violation, as humans sought to control the genome of the entire planet.

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  • Diane Ackerman is the author of many highly acclaimed works of nonfiction and poetry, including A Natural History of the Senses, a book beloved by millions of readers all over the world, and The Zookeeper's Wife, which received the Orion Book Award. She has taught at Columbia and Cornell and has been published in the New York Times, Smithsonian, Parade, the New Yorker, and National Geographic.

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  • AudioFile Magazine Suzanne Toren's respectful reading allows the horror of the Holocaust to emanate from the compelling story of Jan and Antonina Zabinski and the Warsaw Zoo. The zoo is partly destroyed by Nazi bombing in September 1939. Then the best animals are carted off to German zoos, and the Nazis hold a drunken "hunting" festival on New Year's Eve, killing the rest. In her diary Antonina asks herself: "How many humans will die like this in the coming months?" Jan joins the Polish Resistance, smuggling Jews out of the ghetto and hiding them in the zoo, where Antonina takes care of them. Toren skillfully portrays the fear and revulsion expressed by Antonina in her diary and creates convincing accents for the many Polish characters. A.B. (c) AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine
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The Zookeeper's Wife
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A War Story
Diane Ackerman
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