Opening of the Żabińskis’ villa at the Warsaw ZOO

KJ, 16 November 2016
On Saturday, 11 April 2015, the official inauguration of the revitalised villa of Jan and Antonina Żabińskis at the Warsaw Zoological Garden will take place. During the German occupation, escapees from the Warsaw Ghetto were being hidden there. From May, the villa will be accessible to visitors. Then, the POLIN Museum will launch a virtual exhibition of the history of the Garden and Jews who were provided shelter there.

“The House Under the Crazy Star” – that is how a house within the confines of the Warsaw ZOO, inhabited by director Żabiński, his wife Antonina and their children was dubbed during World War II. During the war, in the house’s basement and garden facilities, the couple gave shelter to many Jews, including Magdalena Gross, a sculptor, Rachela Auerbach, a writer, and the family of a boxer, Samuel Kenigswein.

The house has undergone a thorough renovation in the recent years. The climate of the pre-war times has been recreated inside it. Photographs of the Żabińskis and the people they hid are placed on the walls. In the sitting room, there is a piano, identical to the one on which Antonina played an Offenbach’s melody, warning the hiding Jews of danger.

In the library, there are original books which were read by director Żabiński. Visitors will also have an opportunity to see basements in which Jews were hiding, Magdalena Gross’ studio and the clandestine tunnel through which the hiding people were going out into the garden in dangerous situations.

In 1965, on the basis of the survivors’ accounts, the Żabińskis were honoured with a title of the Righteous Among the Nations.

On Saturday, 11 April 2015, an inaugural concert will take place in the Żabińskis’ villa. On 4 May, the villa will be opened to visitors. The ZOO employees proclaim that meetings, lectures and concerts will be held there on regular basis.

In May, POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews will launch a virtual exhibition within the framework of the project “The Polish Righteous – Recalling Forgotten History” devoted to the history of the ZOO during the occupation, the history of its hosts and some people the Żabińskis provided aid to, like Magdalena Gross, a sculptor, Rachela Auerbach, a writer, Samuel Kenigswein, a boxer or Szymon Tenenbaum, an entomologist.