Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Zoo Keepers Wife

By: Diane Ackerman
Location: NF 920 ACK
Genre: Sheltering the Holocaust

Radical acts of compassion:

'Why do we humanize animals and animalize humans?'

What a combo-The story of animals in a zoo and a story of hiding Jews in Nazi Germany- I mean who would dare go to look in the Lions Cage- only if your name was Daniel I guess.

Jan and Antonina Zabinski were Polish Christian keepers of the Zoo when the Germans under Hitler's scheme of world domination and purification of Europe for the chosen race of Aryans began. Ackerman quietly builds her setting by concentrating on the special gifts of these two remarkable people in caring for the animals of the zoo: her descriptions of the various members of the menagerie are at once comical and insightful. When Hitler's move into Poland began the Zabinskis, long friends with the many Jews who lived around them, devised clever ways to turn the zoo and their own villa into a safe haven for the increasingly threatened annihilation of their friends who happened to be Jewish. Throughout the horrors of the German destruction of the city and the attempts of the Warsaw Uprising, led in part by Jan Zabinski, the couple maintained an atmosphere of calm and grace for the some 300 Jews in their hiding. Using the Zoo as a shield to deflect occupying German interest in animal studies as a part of their theory of purification, and as a means to gather food in the Jewish Ghetto for the 'animals', they were able to feed their 'guests' and provide papers and documents to aid the escape of the Jews who chose to flee Poland. And after the war the Zabinskis continued to refurbish the zoo and offer sanctity to those Jews whose lives had been so devastated during the crush of Warsaw.  Gardy Harp-

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