The Zabinski Family

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Story of Rescue - The Zabinski Family

“I am a democratic Pole. My actions were and are the result of a particular psychological attitude which resulted from a progressively humanistic upbringing.” It is in this way that Doctor Jan Żabiński described himself after the war. A distinguished zoologist, an advocate of knowledge about nature and biology, author of books on the life of animals and the protection of the environment, who for many years held the position of director at the zoological gardens in Warsaw. 

During the II World War, along with his wife Antonia, Żabiński hid Jews – in rooms throughout the zoological garden, as well as at friends’ homes – from the Warsaw ghetto.  Before the war he counted many friends among them. The Żabińskis were friends with, among others, Szymon Tenenbaum, as well as the famous Warsaw Kramsztyk family. The doctor decided to move them outside the walls and to take care of them on the “Aryan side.” He got a pass to enter the ghetto in order to be able to bring food for his friends. He was able to get the wife and daughter of Professor Tenenbaum out of the ghetto, as well as the sister of Kazimierz Kramsztyk. Later on, other people who had made it across the walls began coming to the Żabińskis, or those who were already on the “Aryan side” but who had to change their hideouts. ‘Żegota’, the organization which was dedicated to helping Jews, also sent people to the Żabińskis. Among them were: the prewar journalist Rachela Auerbach and the famous sculptor Magdalena Gross.

Visit the virtual exhibition "The House under a Wacky Star" about Jews in hiding at the Warsaw ZOO.




  • Auerbach Rachela, Arka Noego i żubry, których nie otrzymaliśmy, „Nowiny Kurier”
  • Archiwum Yad Vashem, 2888, YV-03
    Regina Kenigsewin's testimony.
  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Jan Żabiński, Relacja, "Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego", nr 1 (65/66)
  • Auerbach Rachela, Wojenne Zoo dyrektora Żabińskiego, źródło nieznane, nr 248 (6045)
  • The Zookeeper’s Wife, Niki Caro, 2017, USA, Drama film, 126 min

    Azyl (The Zookeeper’s Wife) is the story of Antonina and Jan Żabiński who, during World War II, hid Jews in the Warsaw Zoo. The film is based on Diane Ackerman’s book, The Zookeeper’s Wife, published in 2007. The book was based on the memoirs of Antonina Żabińska who is the film’s central character. Her role was played by Hollywood star, Jessica Chastain.