Zookeeper’s Wife

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Book & Author

The Zookeepers Wife: The empty cages of the Warsaw Zoo proved to be the perfect place to hide Jews for  Warsaw Zoo keepers and resistance activists Jan and Antonina Zabinski.  This true story deals with the impact the Aryan racial aims of the Nazi regime had not only on the humans of Poland, but also the animals.

Meet Diane Ackerman:  Author, poet, essayist, and naturalist, Ackerman’s website says: Humans might luxuriate in the idea of being “in” nature, but Ms. Ackerman has taught generations that we are nature—for “no facet of nature is as unlikely as we, the tiny bipeds with the giant dreams.”
Here Ackerman discusses The Zookeeper’s Wife on KPBS, San Diego for the One Book program sponsored by the San Diego Public Library and San Diego University.

Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13k5o0RwrsM

Quote from the book:

“The idea of safety had shrunk into particles – one snug moment, then the next.  Meanwhile, the brain piped fugues of worry  and staged mind-theaters full of tragedies and triumphs, because unfortunately, the fear of death does wonders to focus the mind, inspire creativity, and heightens the senses.  Trusting one’s hunches only seems gamble if one has time for seem; otherwise the brain goes on autopilot and trades the elite craft of analysis for the best rapid insights that float  up from its danger files and ancient bag of tricks.”.

Discuss

Topics for discussion that the book will bring up include:

  • The different perspective that this book gives on Poland during World War II and how group members reacted to seeing the war from this different perspective.
  • How people react to war–group members can discuss how Jan and Antonia reacted to the war and whether or not they felt their choices were for the best.
  • The relationships between people and animals, and whether or not there is a danger in anthropomorphizing them.

More discussion questions can be found at: http://www.readinggroupguides.com/guides_z/zookeepers_wife1.asp

Enhance

Hear the testimony of Moshe Tirosh, one of the Jews rescued (along with his parents) by the Zabinski.  Tirosh was testifying for the Yad Vashem, which recognized the Zabinski’s as one of the  “Righteous Among the Nations” in 1965.

Interact

For groups that have had a discussion of The Zookeeper’s Wife, did it lead to a good discussion time?  Did your group do anything extra special to jazz up your meeting–like serving some sort of special food or drink?  Share your experiences with other book groups by commenting on this post.