A true story in which the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo saved hundreds of people from Nazi hands.
"An inspiring read that may join Schindler's List and Hotel Rwanda as popular accounts of heroism in the face of genocide."--Salt Lake Tribune
"Fresh and compelling. ... Ackerman has succeeded in a vivid, cinematically written book that's bound to find its way to the screen."--San Francisco Chronicle
"A lovely story about the Holocaust might seem like a grotesque oxymoron. But ... Diane Ackerman proves otherwise. Here is a true story--of human empathy and its opposite--that is simultaneously grave and exuberant, wise and playful."--Washington Post Book World
"Absolutely compelling. ... Ackerman, who researches intensely, makes beautiful work of harrowing tales of [her characters'] determination to keep souls alive, in the actual and metaphorical sense both."--New York Daily News
"[Ackerman] luxuriates in sensory exploration and metaphor. ... It's a tribute to her talent that the book feels both triumphant and inevitable by the last page."--Orion.
Starred Review. Ackerman (A Natural History of the Senses) tells the remarkable WWII story of Jan Zabinski, the director of the Warsaw Zoo, and his wife, Antonina, who, with courage and coolheaded ingenuity, sheltered 300 Jews as well as Polish resisters in their villa and in animal cages and sheds. Using Antonina's diaries, other contemporary sources and her own research in Poland, Ackerman takes us into the Warsaw ghetto and the 1943 Jewish uprising and also describes the Poles' revolt against the Nazi occupiers in 1944. She introduces us to such varied figures as Lutz Heck, the duplicitous head of the Berlin zoo; Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, spiritual head of the ghetto; and the leaders of Zegota, the Polish organization that rescued Jews. Ackerman reveals other rescuers, like Dr. Mada Walter, who helped many Jews pass, giving lessons on how to appear Aryan and not attract notice. Ackerman's writing is viscerally evocative, as in her description of the effects of the German bombing of the zoo area: ...the sky broke open and whistling fire hurtled down, cages exploded, moats rained upward, iron bars squealed as they wrenched apart. This suspenseful beautifully crafted story deserves a wide readership. 8 pages of illus. (Sept.)
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W. W. Norton & Company
September 15, 2008
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