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Marilee J. Layman

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05:49 pm: The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
I've had more unsettling dreams and I'm pretty sure it's because I was reading this WWII book before bed. Diane Ackerman uses Antonina Zabinski's memoirs as well as interviews and many other references to tell us Antonina's story when Warsaw was taken by the Nazis through the Uprising and the end of their war.

Jan Zabinski was the zookeeper of the major European zoo in Warsaw. His wife Antonina was not only spouse and mother, but cared for sick and young animals. Jan had made a zoo with different environments for set of animals and things were wonderful until the Nazis entered the city. Jan, Antonina, and their son Rys were Polish Christians but Jan worked in the underground and they hid more than 300 Guests in their villa and zoo houses during the war. They had a lot of help from other Christians -- many wanted the Jews to escape -- but the Nazis had more weapons.

The book tells this horrible tale from Antonina's view in the villa, the zoo, and near the end of the war, in exile. We learn about not only the Guests (who frequently acquired animal names) and the animals, but the long numbers that the Nazis lined up and sent to death camps. My heart sank over and over. I knew this intellectually, but Ackerman gave me a story that grabbed me -- both in intensity and desolation. There's no actual blood in the book, but the tension and the massive numbers of the dead walking in front of you is devastating. Still highly recommended.

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