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2015-05-05

A virtual exhibition on Jews who were offered shelter at the Warsaw ZOO

An asylum, a shelter, an ark – that is how the Warsaw ZOO was dubbed by those who thanks to the Żabińskis survived World War II there. Fifty years have elapsed since the time when the Żabiński family were awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations. We are launching a virtual exhibition presenting the history of Jews who survived the war at the ZOO.

Ilustracja

Jan Żabiński, an engineer agronomist, physiologist and animal lover, was director of the Warsaw Zoological Garden in Warsaw before World War II. He lived in a villa located in the garden together with his wife, Antonina, who shared his zoological passion. The couple jointly developed the institution bringing in subsequent animal species to the ZOO.

When the war broke out, most animals from the ZOO were killed. Some of them were shot by the employees for safety reasons – their escape during a bombardment could pose a threat to the safety of people.  Others were killed to feed people or during a hunt organized at the ZOO. Some of animals were taken away by the Germans.

The Żabińskis engaged into clandestine activities. In deserted cages and pavilions as well as in their villa, they hid people, weapons and ammunition.  Many Jews found shelter at the ZOO.  The secret tenants of the house “Under the Wacky Star” as it was dubbed, included, among others, sculptress Magdalena Gross and writer Rachela Auerbach.

After the war, in 1965, on the basis of the survivors' testimonies, Jan and Antonina Żabiński were honored with the Righteous Among the Nations title.

Within its “The Polish Righteous – Restoring Memory” online project, POLIN Museum launches a virtual exhibition describing history of the ZOO during the occupation – history of its hosts and some people whom the Żabińskis helped: sculptor Magdalena Gross, writer Rachela Auerbach, boxer Samuel Keningswein, and entomologist Szymon Tenenbaum. The exhibition is available at http://wystawy.sprawiedliwi.org.pl/wystawa-en/zydzi-ukrywani-w-zoo/.

On 4 May, the Żabińskis’ villa at the Warsaw Zoological Garden was opened to the public. Visitors can tour the house with the basement where an exhibition devoted to the Jews hidden at the ZOO is displayed after prior reservation of the date at willa@zoo.waw.pl.

“The Polish Righteous – Restoring Memory” online project www.sprawiedliwi.org.pl is part of “The Jewish Cultural Heritage” program.

Supported by Norway grants and EEA grants offered by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

www.eeagrants.org, www.norwaygrants.org 
More on “The Jewish Cultural Heritage” program

 

Author: Klara Jackl

 

 

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