Study Guide

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story Loyalty

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Chapter 5

When Britain and France declared war on Germany, Poles rejoiced and radio stations played the French and British national anthems endlessly for days, but mid-September brought no relief from the relentless bombing and heavy artillery. (5.11)

After this, the Polish response was basically Dzięki za nic. Which basically translates to Thanks for nothing, France. But maybe that's not fair. One thing we can tell you: two places you definitely didn't want to be in the 1940s were Poland and France.

Chapter 6

The best plan, he suggested, was to arrest Jan and drive to Warsaw with him as a prisoner; and despite their past cordiality, Jan worried if Müller could be trusted. (6.17)

This is a huge risk on Jan's part, because Müller could be telling all this to him in order to arrest him. Although if Müller were actually doing that, he would be like a bad guy in a movie, concocting an elaborate plot to kill the hero when shooting him in the face would be the fastest solution. This book is more, you know, real life.

Puzzled, they wondered whom to believe: the mayor in a public speech or members of the Resistance. (6.14)

During wartime, loyalties can switch at a moment's notice. Pledging allegiance to anyone can be a risk, and one that's much more dangerous than the board game… even against your sore loser friend.

Chapter 7

They didn't trust Heck, but on the other hand, he was sweet on Antonina, and in theory, as a fellow zookeeper, he should be sympathetic to their situation. (7.15)

Sometimes, during a war, you have no choice but to pretend to trust someone. Heck ends up being not that trustworthy, even though he returns a bunch of bison at the end of the story. The shipping charges must have been astronomical.

Chapter 9

The war had a way of curdling [Antonina's] trust in people. (9.17)

There you have it: trust becomes like old cottage cheese during the war. No one wants a bite of that.

"I'm giving you my pledge," [Lutz Heck] said solemnly. "You can trust me. Although I don't really have any influence over German high command, I'll try nonetheless to persuade them to be lenient with your zoo. Meanwhile, I'll take your most important animals to Germany, but I swear I'll take good care of them." (9.10)

Liar, liar, lederhosen on fire. Okay, to be fair, Heck's definition of "most important animals" is different from Jan and Antonina's. He takes the animals he deems important, and he kills the rest. In his mind, he kept his word.

Chapter 15

Antonina knew Jan wanted to ride with Ziegler because most Ghetto gates were heavily guarded by German sentry on the outside and Jewish police on the inside. (15.45)

As he did with Müller, Jan forms an uneasy alliance with Ziegler, another German. Müller saved Jan's life, and Jan's partnership with Ziegler helps save others. It turns out even some of the Germans were creeped out by what was happening on the ground.

Chapter 27

In time, her loyal, angry Guests stopped talking to Jan entirely or even making eye contact with him—hating how he treated her but unwilling to confront him, they blotted him out. (27.7)

Loyalty isn't always about world-changing things, like picking sides in a war. Sometimes it's about petty marital squabbles too, and the Guests side with Antonina during her spat with Jan.

Chapter 28

As safety ebbed and flowed during the war, even a quiet offhand remark could trigger a landslide of trouble. Word filtered back to Antonina and Jan that one of their Polish zoo guards had caught sight of Magdalena and gossiped that the famous sculptor hid in the villa. (28.1)

Loyalty can be betrayed by accident, too. Ever hear the American slogan "loose lips sink ships"? Well, in this case, it's something like "loose ground crews sink zoos."

Chapter 29

Jan whispered that these members of the Underground's sabotage wing had set fire to German gas tanks and urgently needed to lie low. They'd been told to run for the zoo, and, unbeknownst to Antonina, Jan had been expecting them all evening with mounting worry. (29.6)

Hey, the enemy of your enemy is your friend. Jan has a home for anyone willing to bomb Germans.

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