Tag Archives: Warsaw

The Zookeeper’s Wife Movie Review

One of my favorite quotes from the Talmud is as follows:

Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if they destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if they saved an entire world.

Jan and Antonina Żabiński saved the lives of hundreds of Jews during World War II.

Their story is chronicled in the new film, The Zookkeeper’s Wife, (which is based upon the book of the same name). Jan Żabiński (Johan Heldenbergh) and his wife, Antonina (Jessica Chastain) are the caretakers of the Warsaw Zoo. When the Germans invade Poland and start to slowly tighten the noose around Jan and Antonina’s Jewish friends and neighbors, they make the bold and very dangerous decision to help as many survive as they can. Their task is made harder by Lutz Heck (Daniel Bruhl), a colleague who has joined the Nazis and whose feelings for Antonina go beyond the professional sphere.

Can Antonina and Jan continue to save lives or will they be caught and killed by the Germans?

While this movie is a bit on the long side, I very much enjoyed it. Movies about the Holocaust are normally focused on the victims and survivors, not based on those who were brave enough to defy the Germans and attempt to save lives. In focusing on Jan and Antonina, I was reminded that even in times of extreme darkness, there is still light, courage and hope in the world.

I recommend it.

The Zookeeper’s Wife is presently in theaters.

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A Train To Warsaw Book Review: An Intense And Powerful Look At The Holocaust

The Holocaust is such a powerful and overwhelming subject that sometimes, it seems almost impossible to make it human and real.

Gwen Edelman’s new book, The Train To Warsaw, starts 40 years after the end of World War II. Jascha and Lilka met and fell in love in the Warsaw Ghetto.  Escaping the ghetto separately, they reunite in London. Four decades after the war, Jascha has become a celebrated novelist. He has been invited back to Warsaw to give a reading of his book.  While Lilka is eager to go and wants to relive her childhood, Jascha refuses, for he sees no reason to return.

Lilka wins and they travel in the middle of bitterly cold December back to Warsaw. Intertwined in their intimate conversations are the memories of their lives before and during the war, the family, friends and neighbors whose lives were taken and the Poles who were eager to work with the Nazis in reaching their goals. A secret is revealed towards the end of the novel, causing the characters to wonder if they can still trust each other.

I’ve read many Holocaust books, but this book is different. It is intimate and human. Instead of dealing the very daunting subject of the Holocaust as a whole, Ms. Edelman focuses on her two main characters who have different memories of their lives in Warsaw.  Lilka and Jascha’s relationship feels normal and loving, despite the hardships they have endured.

I recommend this book.

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