When Germany invaded Poland, bombers devastated Warsawâ€”and the city's zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski began smuggling Jews into empty cages. Another dozen "guests" hid inside the Zabinskis' villa, emerging after dark for dinner, socializing, and, during rare moments of calm, piano concerts. Jan, active in the Polish resistance, kept ammunition buried in the elephant enclosure and stashed explosives in the animal hospital. Meanwhile, Antonina kept her unusual household afloat, caring for both its human and its animal inhabitantsâ€”otters, a badger, hyena pups, and lynxes.
World War II from the Polish perspective was not something familar to me and I learned a lot about the uprising and Ghetto experience in Warsaw. I also didn't realize that the Nazi's (especially Hermann Goering) not only wanted to create and maintain a pure human race, they wanted a pure and Aryan animal race as well. Soldiers 'borrowed' animals from various zoos and interbred them to try to recreate extinct species such as forest tarpans and aurochsen.
Ackerman is also a poet and naturalist which comes across very nicely and makes this a lyrical and compassionate read not to be missed. Check catalog for availability.