The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman - review by Nigel Jones

Nigel Jones

Sparks of Humanity

The Zookeeper's Wife


Old Street Publishing 368pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

No country or people suffered more profoundly during the Second World War than the nation where it all started: Poland. Hitler's invasion on 1 September 1939 was swiftly followed by Stalin's occupation of eastern Poland – pre-arranged the previous month in the Hitler-Stalin pact.

Under the tender mercies of Nazi rule, over six million Poles – including, of course, the vast majority of its Jews – were shot, gassed or worked to death in extermination camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Majdanek, Sobibor, Belzek and Chelmno. Hundreds of thousands more were deported, never to return. At the war's end Poland had more than a million orphans. 

Soviet atrocities approached those of the Nazi : both totalitarian powers aimed to decapitate Poland by eliminating its aristocracy, officer corps, clergy, intellectuals and educated middle-class, along with Polish Jewry. Stalin and Beria's mass murder of eight thousand captured Polish officers in the forest of Katyn is well-known,

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