Hear how the Żabiński family saved the lives of countless Jews during the Nazi German occupation
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In September 1939, Nazi Germany began their infamous invasion of Poland and shortly thereafter occupied the country, thus marking the beginning of the Second World War. Amidst all the destruction and loss, a nearly unbelievable act of selflessness proved to be a light of humanity that shone through the darkness and desolation of war in, of all places, a zoo.
In this episode, our hosts discuss the remarkable story of Jan and Antonina Żabiński and the Warsaw Zoo. How was this formerly prosperous zoo transformed into a shelter for Jewish refugees escaping the brutality of the Nazis? How was Jan Żabiński able to travel in and out of the Warsaw Ghetto and save so many Jewish people in the process? How were the Żabińskis able to avoid being discovered? Most important, what can Jan and Antonina’s daring act of humanity teach us about compassion, altruism and selflessness?
[02:43] Introduction to the Warsaw Zoo as well as Jan and Antonina Żabiński
[04:10] Origins of the Crazy Star Villa and how it got its unique name
[05:01] The Warsaw Zoo’s rise to prominence in the 1930s
[05:39] How the German invasion of Poland in 1939 affected the Warsaw Zoo
[08:00] How the Żabińskis became involved in underground resistance efforts against the Nazis
[08:42] Jan’s relationships with entomologist Szymon Tenenbaum and German officer Friedrich Ziegler
[11:15] The mystery of how Jan Żabiński was able to travel in and out of the Ghetto
[12:58] How the Warsaw Zoo was converted into a shelter for Jewish people
[14:07] How the Żabińskis were able to hide Jewish people and avoid being caught
[18:37] The Żabińskis become the ‘Righteous Among the Nations’
[22:20] What can we learn from the Żabińskis’ altruism?
Click the image below to check out more episodes:
- 'PANDA' Foundation for the Development of the Warsaw Zoo & Ewa Strzyżewska / for kindly agreeing to give us a tour around the villa and tell us the story of the Żabiński family.
- Klara Jackl / coordinator from POLIN's web project Polish Righteous: Recalling Forgotten History, who kindly provided us with in-depth knowledge about who the Righteous Among the Nations are.
- Karolina Dzięciołowska / author of the virtual exhibition House Under a Wacky Star, who kindly allowed us to interview her.
- POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews / the wonderful museum that worked with us throughout the process of creating this episode.
SFTEW Team: Wojciech Oleksiak, Adam Zulawski, John Beauchamp, Lea Berriault, Nitzan Reisner, Michael Keller & Weronika Fay.