When Germany invaded Poland, bombers devastated Warsaw, and the city's zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski began smuggling Jews into the 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 inhabitants and refusing to give in to the penetrating fear of discovery, even as Europe crumbled around her.
Diane Ackerman is the acclaimed author of A Natural History of the Senses, the bestselling The Zookeeper's Wife, Dawn Light, and many other books. She lives in Ithaca, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida.