The Zookeeper's Wife Movie Study
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Meet Jan and Antonina Zabinski, the owners of the Warsaw Zoo in Warsaw, Poland. Jan was a respected zoologist, while Antonina's passion and love for their animals was the heart of their zoo. Their home was often filled with a plethora of different animals.
When the Germans invaded Poland and bombed its capital (Warsaw) in September 1939, the zoo was nearly destroyed. Cages were destroyed and animals fled in the midst of the massive chaos. Jan had grown up to Catholic parents in a working class Jewish neighborhood, and was actively involved with the Polish resistance from the beginning.
A few years later, as conditions in Poland were tightening, Jan began smuggling Jews out of the Warsaw Ghetto and bringing them into their zoo, using the abandoned and destroyed animal cages as their shelter. Some stayed for a few days, others stayed for years. Nazi soldiers frequently visited the Zabinski's zoo, and each time, Antonina would play a song on the piano to warn their guests to hide in silence.
Over a course of three years, the Zabinskis sheltered 300 Jews and resistance members. All but two survived.
Jan and Antonina were later recognized as the Righteous Among the Nations by Israel's Holocaust memorial, Yad VaShem. The title is awarded to gentiles who repeatedly risked their lives to rescue Jews during the Holocaust.
- Pre-Viewing Questions
- Discussion Questions (2 ways - one list and one space for students to write)
- Jan and Antonina: The True Story (with quiz)
- Janusz Korczak and More Polish Heroes During the Holocaust
- The Warsaw Ghetto Paragraph + Questions
- Righteous Among the Nations
- "First They Came" Poem Analysis
- Extended Resources
- Pros and Cons of Resistance
- Traits of the Zabinskis
- Lessons Learned
- Courage from the Bible (With a biblical theme. This page can be omitted for a secular study.)