The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman (audio review)

Jan Zabinski was the director of the Warsaw Zoo during WWII.  He, along with his wife Antonia, sheltered 300 Jews as well as Polish resisters in the home, in animal cages, and in sheds.  Using the names of the animals as code names for the people in hiding, they risked their own lives to save those of strangers.

This would be a remarkable fiction story….

what makes it even more remarkable is that it is not fiction.

Using Antonia’s diaries, author Diane Ackerman takes us to a point in history where people ran for their very lives, hiding their heritage, and not knowing if this day may be your last….

it is a hard life to imagine from the comforts of my own life and times…

Russian born Antonia, and Polish Catholic Jan were a rarity and an enigma.  They loved animals and would bring in any stray into their home.  It was not uncommon to have not only cats and dogs in the home, but also a rabbit, birds, otters, badgers, lynx and more.  All this while hiding people and ammunition within the zoo itself, as Europe crumbled all around.

Warsaw Zoo Elephant, 1938 (as seen on Wikepedia)

This book was recommended to me by my friend Heidi over a year ago.  I am usually quite open to book suggestions and in short time had the book in possession and on my shelf.  Now – the trick was to find the time to read it.  A couple of weeks ago I found it at my library in audio format and knew that was what would push this story to the front line.

Deeply immersed in the language of the times and the history in the making, I at first found this audio heavy with facts.  As I became more aware of what was happening and how incredibly brave Jan and Antonina were as well as what they did for the Jewish

Jan Zabinski - eventually in 1944 he was taken as a prisoner in Germany, yet Antonina continued to help the Jewish people that were left behind in the ruined city. (*picture from Wikepedia)

people – said to have saved over 300 people by hiding them in the zoo cages and in their home. 

In the end, as what happens many times to me when I discover a new vein of history I knew little to nothing about, I want to know more.  If you look on-line you will find many stories of the Warsaw Zoo and the Zabinski’s.


Today the Warsaw Zoo lives on and flourishes.  Check out their website here and be amazed that this incredible Zoo that started in March 1928, still remain open and carrying with it a bounty of history.

Amazon Rating

Good Reads Review


I have updated WHERE Are You Reading Map to include The Zookeeper’s Wife




I borrowed this book on audio from my local library

26 thoughts on “The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman (audio review)

  1. This sounds so amazing! I will have to find a copy to read. Definitely going on my TBR list and one I will be suggesting to my sister too. Thanks for your review!

    1. I dont think I knew that when I first bought the book Meg. And later I looked it up to see if it was historical fiction. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that this really happened! 😀

  2. This sounds like such a fascinating story. I’d been wanting to read it for awhile and was thrilled to recently find a 50 cent copy at the library sale! Can’t wait to have time for it. I’ll link to your review on War Through the Generations.

  3. This is the second great review I’ve read of this book so it’s already on my radar. I have read a lot about Europe in WW II so this fits right in with my interests.

  4. Wow I had no idea this was non-fiction. It does sound like a fascinating story. Another book for my wishlist! I can’t even begin to imagine how brave one has to be to pull off something like this.

  5. This sounds like a truly phenomenal story. Love it when you hear about amazing true stories. And it is awesome that the zoo is still open. I’m sure after reading this, I will definitely want to visit it!

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