>> Friday, September 12, 2008
Publication Date: 2007
Challenges: A-Z Reading #41 (Z Title)
I first heard about this book when Jenclair reviewed it last year. Since then I’ve seen several other positive reviews and the title made it perfect for the A-Z challenge.
For some reason I had been under the impression that this book was fiction, so I was a bit surprised when I went to find it at the library and it had a non-fiction call number. It’s the story of Jan and Antonina Zabinski and also of Warsaw during World War II. The book begins in 1935 and tells how Jan became the zookeeper at the Warsaw Zoo. When Germany invaded and the zoo was bombed, they stayed to try to care for the animals who had survived and ended up caring for both Warsaw and many of its Jewish citizens. The Nazis allowed the Zabinskis to use the zoo first as a pig farm and later as a fox fur farm to help feed and clothe their army.
Ackerman used Antonina’s diaries as a primary source for her story and while it does focus on her, there are many side stories of her husband’s activities in the Polish resistance as well as the many ‘guests’ who hid from the Nazis in their villa and the empty cages and enclosures at the zoo.
The book contains many powerful episodes of courage and sacrifice in the face of horrible circumstances. I found it to be a fascinating book.