The Zookeep­er’s Wife: A War Story

By – December 9, 2011

The Zookeeper’s Wife delves into a lit­tle known aspect of World War II: the part played by the War­saw Zoo in sav­ing the lives of over 300 peo­ple. This book is based upon the writ­ings of Anton­i­na Zabin­s­ki— the true life zookeeper’s wife — sur­vivor inter­views, and research. The sto­ry, which takes place before and dur­ing the war, cen­ters on the zoo and its inhab­i­tants. The author lyri­cal­ly explores the sights, smells, flo­ra, and fau­na, as well as indi­vid­u­als and events.

Mrs. Zabin­s­ki, who did not con­sid­er her­self a hero­ine, man­aged to save over 300 lives in spite of the Nazi occu­pa­tion, replete with its restric­tions, food short­ages, and relent­lesss hunt for Jews. The author relates the rela­tion­ship between the Zabin­s­ki fam­i­ly and the Nazis, with their obses­sion with rare ani­mals. Incor­po­rat­ed is excel­lent infor­ma­tion about the Resis­tance, the Under­ground, the War­saw Ghet­to resis­tance, the War­saw upris­ing, and the hid­ing of those hunt­ed by the Nazis.

This is not a casu­al read. The range of events and depth of detail make this book best suit­ed to seri­ous stu­dents of World War II and the Holocaust. 

Nao­mi Kramer is a retired read­ing con­sul­tant teacher who devel­oped cur­ricu­lum for using lit­er­a­ture to edu­cate chil­dren and adults in the his­to­ry of the Holo­caust. She is a docent and edu­ca­tor at the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Edu­ca­tion Cen­ter of Nas­sau County.