The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Blurring the lines between animal and human behavior, acclaimed nature writer Diane Ackerman has penned a stunning true history of how the pristine, pre-war Warsaw Zoo became a secret safe haven for Jews when Hitler invaded Poland, heavily bombing the zoo in the process. Based on the diary of Antonina Zabinski, we don't just witness the high risk Jew-smuggling that Zookeeper Jan devises. In greater proportion, we live inside his spouse's mind as she becomes acquainted with the terrified humans she hides and feeds in the shell-shocked exhibition cages. The ordeal takes its toll, and we see it in the dark thoughts she discloses only on paper. The way Antonina's sensitive, thoughtful demeanor is paired with her selfless courage provides us a rare, personalized, behind-the-scenes World War II story. While describing savage Nazi behavior at its worst, the Zabinskis never pause to reflect that they, perhaps, are the best specimens of human animals the world has to offer. — From Jennifer's Picks


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.

After their zoo was bombed, Polish zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski managed to save over three hundred people from the Nazis by hiding refugees in the empty animal cages. With animal names for these "guests," and human names for the animals, it's no wonder that the zoo's code name became "The House Under a Crazy Star." Best-selling naturalist and acclaimed storyteller Diane Ackerman combines extensive research and an exuberant writing style to re-create this fascinating, true-life story—sharing Antonina's life as "the zookeeper's wife," while examining the disturbing obsessions at the core of Nazism. Winner of the 2008 Orion Award.

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.

Praise For…

It is no stretch to say that this is the book Ackerman was meant to write.
— Los Angeles Times

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 is true.
— Jared Diamond
Product Details
ISBN: 9780393333060
ISBN-10: 039333306X
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: September 17th, 2008
Pages: 384
Language: English