The New York Times bestseller now a major motion picture starring Jessica Chastain.
A true story in which the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo saved hundreds of people from Nazi hands.
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, best-selling 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. Ironically, the empty zoo cages helped to hide scores of doomed people, who were code-named after the animals whose names they occupied. Others hid in the nooks and crannies of the house itself.
Jan led a cell of saboteurs, and the Zabinskis’ young son risked his life carrying food to the Guests, while also tending an eccentric array of creatures in the house. With hidden people having animal names, and pet animals having human names, it’s small wonder the zoo’s codename 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, Diane 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.
About the Author
Diane Ackerman has been the finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction in addition to many other awards and recognitions for her work, which include the best-selling The Zookeeper's Wife and A Natural History of the Senses. She lives in Ithaca, New York.
A lovely story about the Holocaust might seem like a grotesque oxymoron. But in The Zookeeper’s Wife, Diane Ackerman proves otherwise. Here is a true story—of human empathy and its opposite—that is simultaneously grave and exuberant, wise and playful. Ackerman has a wonderful tale to tell, and she tells it wonderfully.
— Washington Post Book World
A poignant and absorbing book. — New York Times Book Review
I can’t imagine a better story or storyteller. The Zookeeper’s Wife will touch every nerve you have.
— Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything is Illuminated
A fresh and compelling addition to Holocaust literature. — San Francisco Chronicle
A stunning tale of war and sanctuary [that is] perceptive, knowledgeable and rhapsodic.… How incisively and damningly Ackerman dissects the Nazis’ perverted view of nature.… A shining book beyond category.… It is no stretch to say that this is the book Ackerman was meant to write. — Los Angeles Times
Author Diane Ackerman offers us The Zookeeper’s Wife, a tale of untold bravery with a whimsical dose of history reminiscent of Noah’s Ark.… Ackerman’s story is a treatise on nobility—a word that applies to some humans and all the animals in The Zookeeper’s Wife.
— USA Today
Diane Ackerman has surpassed even herself in her latest book, which is alternatingly funny, moving, and terrifying. This powerful thriller would be a great novel—except that it happens to be true. — Jared Diamond, author of Collapse and Guns, Germs, and Steel