- Megan Bingham
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The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman
The true story of how the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo saved hundreds of people from Nazi hands. When Germany invaded Poland, Stuka bombers devastated Warsaw—and the city's zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Żabiński began smuggling Jews into empty cages. Another dozen "guests" hid inside the Żabińskis' 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—otters, a badger, hyena pups, lynxe—and keeping alive an atmosphere of play and innocence even as Europe crumbled around her. (catalog summary)
The Zookeeper's Wife is a 2017 British-American war drama film directed by Niki Caro and written by Angela Workman. The film stars Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenbergh, Michael McElhatton and Daniel Brühl. The film is scheduled to be released on March 31, 2017, by Focus Features. View the offical HD Trailer below the book recommendations.
Looking for a war-time drama like The Zookeeper's Wife? Check out these other titles.
A Blessing on the Moon by Joseph Skibell
At the center of A Blessing on the Moon is Chaim Skibelski. Death is merely the beginning of Chaim s troubles. In the opening pages, he is shot along with the other Jews of his small Polish village. But instead of resting peacefully in the World to Come, Chaim, for reasons unclear to him, is left to wander the earth, accompanied by his rabbi, who has taken the form of a talking crow. Chaim's afterlife journey is filled with extraordinary encounters whose consequences are far greater than he realizes. (catalog summary)
The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard
Aron, a child living in World War II Poland, is an engaging if peculiar and unhappy young boy whose family is driven by the German onslaught from the Polish countryside into Warsaw and slowly battered by deprivation, disease, and persecution. . . When his family is finally stripped away from him, Aron is rescued by Janusz Korczak, a doctor renowned throughout prewar Europe as an advocate of childrens' rights who, once the Nazis swept in, was put in charge of the Warsaw orphanage. Treblinka awaits them all, but does Aron manage to escape—as his mentor suspected he could—to spread word about the atrocities? (catalog summary)
Day After Night: A Novel by Anita Diamant
Four young women haunted by unspeakable memories and losses, afraid to begin to hope, find salvation in the bonds of friendship and shared experience even as they confront the challenge of re-creating themselves in a strange new country. Based on the extraordinary true story of the October 1945 rescue of more than two hundred Jewish prisoners from the Atlit internment camp outside Haifa. (catalog summary)
The Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg
Follows the World War II tale of Jewish ghetto director Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, who in an ambitious effort to render the ghetto an invaluable industrial complex makes compromises that have extraordinary consequences. (catalog summay)
Mischling: A Novel by Affinity Konar
It's 1944 when the twin sisters arrive at Auschwitz with their mother and grandfather. In their benighted new world, Pearl and Stasha Zagorski take refuge in their identical natures, comforting themselves with the private language and shared games of their childhood. As part of the experimental population of twins known as Mengele's Zoo, the girls experience privileges and horrors unknown to others, and they find themselves changed, stripped of the personalities they once shared, their identities altered by the burdens of guilt and pain. That winter, at a concert orchestrated by Mengele, Pearl disappears. Stasha grieves for her twin, but clings to the possibility that Pearl remains alive. When the camp is liberated by the Red Army, she and her companion Feliks—a boy bent on vengeance for his own lost twin—travel through Poland's devastation. Undeterred by injury, starvation, or the chaos around them, motivated by equal parts danger and hope, they encounter hostile villagers, Jewish resistance fighters, and fellow refugees, their quest enabled by the notion that Mengele may be captured and brought to justice within the ruins of the Warsaw Zoo. As the young survivors discover what has become of the world, they must try to imagine a future within it. (catalog summary)
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Viann and Isabelle have always been close despite their differences. Younger, bolder sister Isabelle lives in Paris while Viann lives a quiet and content life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. When World War II strikes and Antoine is sent off to fight, Viann and Isabelle's father sends Isabelle to help her older sister cope. As the war progresses, it's not only the sisters' relationship that is tested, but also their strength and their individual senses of right and wrong. With life as they know it changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Viann and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions. (catalog summary)
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel d'Hiv' roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.
Paris, May 2002: On Vel d'Hiv's 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France's past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl's ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d'Hiv', to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah's past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life. (catalog summary)
Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally
A stunning novel based on the true story of how German war profiteer and factory director Oskar Schindler came to save more Jews from the gas chambers than any other single person during World War II. In this milestone of Holocaust literature, Thomas Keneally, uses the actual testimony of the Schindlerjuden—Schindler's Jews—to brilliantly portray the courage and cunning of a good man in the midst of unspeakable evil. (catalog summary)
Sophie's Choice by William Styron
First published in 1979, this complex and ambitious novel opens with Stingo, a young southerner, journeying north in 1947 to become a writer. It leads us into his intellectual and emotional entanglement with his neighbors in a Brooklyn rooming house: Nathan, a tortured, brilliant Jew, and his lover, Sophie, a beautiful Polish woman whose wrist bears the grim tattoo of a concentration camp. . .and whose past is strewn with death that she alone survived. (catalog summary)
The Storyteller: A Novel by Jodi Picoult
Becoming friends with Josef Weber, an old man who is particularly loved in her community, Sage Singer is shocked when one day he asks her to kill him and reveals why he deserves to die, causing her to question her beliefs. (catalog summary)
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
It is the spring of 1939, and three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows ever closer. The talk around the family Seder table is of new babies and budding romance, not of the increasing hardships facing Jews in their hometown of Radom, Poland. But soon the horrors overtaking Europe will become inescapable and the Kurc family will be flung to the far corners of the earth, each desperately trying to chart his or her own path toward safety. As one sibling is forced into exile, another attempts to flee the continent, while others struggle to escape certain death by working endless hours on empty stomachs in the factories of the ghetto or by hiding as gentiles in plain sight. Driven by an extraordinary will to survive and by the fear that they may never see each other again, the Kurcs must rely on hope, ingenuity, and inner strength to persevere. In a novel of breathtaking sweep and scope that spans five continents and six years and transports readers from the jazz clubs of Paris to the beaches of Rio de Janeiro to Krakow's most brutal prison and the farthest reaches of the Siberian gulag, We Were the Lucky Ones is a tribute to the capacity of the human spirit to endure in the face of the twentieth century's darkest moment. (catalog summary)