Under the Radar

Resisting the Nazis in 'The Zookeeper's Wife'


The Zookeeper's Wife (out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD) is based on the true story of Antonina and Jan Żabińska, owners of a Warsaw Zoo who joined the resistance after Germany invaded Poland in 1939. Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) portrays Antonina and Daniel Brühl (Inglourious Basterds) plays Lutz Heck, the Nazi officer/zoologist who uses the zoo for his animal breeding experiments.

After the city is bombed, most of the zoo's animals have been killed for food. The prize specimens are moved to Germany. Antonina and Jan (Johan Heldenbergh) begin hiding Jewish Poles in the abandoned cages and helping smuggle them to safety.


Eventually, Jan is captured when he participates in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 and Antonina lives through the destruction of the city as Soviet troops advance. Heck discovers that the family has been helping Jews right under his nose and threatens to kill her son Ryszard.

Since it's based on a best-selling book, there's not much intrigue about how The Zookeeper's Wife will end but it's another engaging example of just how many WWII stories that American audiences have yet to hear. Plus it's a war movie made by women: Jessica Chastain is one of the producers of the film and Niki Caro (North Country) directs from a screenplay adaptation by Angela Workman (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan).

The bonus features included fascinating interviews with Teresa Żabińska and Ryszard Żabiński, the real-life children of Antonina and Jan. There are also deleted scenes and a making-of documentary that goes into interesting detail about the challenges of recreating the Warsaw Zoo as the crew filmed in Prague.


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