Study Guide

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story Loyalty

By Diane Ackerman

Loyalty

It's absurd to think about, but had Twitter existed back in the 1940s, the #TeamHitler hashtag would be trending. When the war comes to Poland, Jan and Antonina need to choose sides. It's not really a tough choice: Hitler treats people like animals. Actually, worse than that. He treats people the way even the worst among us would treat an animal, which is to say: Not good at all.

Jan and Antonina in The Zookeeper's Wife decide to go with #TeamHumanity instead. They pledge their loyalty to the Allied powers and work with the Polish Underground to sabotage the Germans. Although their zoo houses exotic animals, they believe all people are exotic in their own ways. They'll do all they can to preserve human nature's purest elements.

Questions About Loyalty

  1. What is the main reason Jan and Antonina decide to dedicate their lives to saving the Jews?
  2. In what ways is their loyalty tested? Do they ever consider switching sides?
  3. Jan and Antonina later divide their own houseguests. Why do most people side with Antonina during their marital dispute?

Chew on This

Antonina and Jan choose to side with the Allies not because it is what benefits them the most—in fact, their zoo is all but destroyed in the process—but because they believe it is right.

Ironically, lies are often a part of loyalty, especially when it comes to Jan. He must pretend to work with the Germans in order to better sabotage them.

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