Based on the true story and the novel of the same name by Diane Ackerman, The Zookeeper’s Wife tells the story of Jan (Johan Heldenbergh) and Antonina Zabinski (Jessica Chastain), two polish zoo workers who helped save around 300 Jewish lives during WWII. I imagine working and living inside the zoo itself, the Zabinki’s would have had no shortage of tales to tell. When war came to Warsaw during WWII, their zoo was taken over by German soldiers and many of their animals heartbreakingly killed. With friends being round up and taken to the ghetto, the Zabinski’s took a risk by hiding a dear friend within a cramped space of their home. Their zoo being damaged by the German bombs and their animals killed, the Zabinki’s managed to convince their acquaintance and zoologist to Hitler himself, Dr. Lutz Heck (Daniel Bruhl) to allow them to raise pigs at the zoo. Under the guise of raising the pigs to keep their zoo running and to feed the Germans, the Zabinski’s took an even greater risk by smuggling as many Jewish people from the ghetto as they could and into their home. With the help of resistance fighters and friends, they were able to funnel people out of the ghetto and out of danger.
The Zookeeper’s Wife tells the amazing story of the brave Zabinski family and those who risked their lives to save others. The details of the story may be unknown to you, but you have a general idea of the plot based on history. This does not; however, take away from the story. There are many endearing moments that any movie with animals brings, though it was quite difficult to watch any scenes where they were killed. Film versions of events usually embellish things for effect, but after watching the movie I can’t help but think of how much more of the story we likely missed. Because of this I would be more inclined to read the book, but the likelihood of this happening does seem rather slim.
WWII has a way of peeking my interest though I can’t say it is for any specific reason. This unique true story set during WWII and in a zoo no less tells a story the likes of which many of us could never have imagined. The struggles and atrocities that occurred during WWII were widespread and boundless leaving no shortage of stories and unsung heroes. Any chance to acknowledge these heroes and hear their stories is well worth the time and effort.