Jan & Antonina Zabinski : A Family That Defied The Nazis
1701 WordsAug 24, 20177 Pages
Jan & Antonina Zabinski: A Family That Defied the Nazis
California State University Channel Islands
Early Life and Education
Antonina Zabinski was a Russian-born Pole born in 1908. Her father, Antoni Erdman, was an engineer who based his operations in St. Petersburg and “…travelled throughout Russia following his trade” (Ackerman 18). When Antonina was nine-years-old, her father and stepmother were shot by Bolshevik soldiers in the early days of the Russian Revolution of 1917. After the death of her parents, Antonina was sent to live with her aunt in Warsaw, Poland. Her aunt “…sent her to school full-time to study the piano at the city’s…show more content…
Jan later met Antonina, his future wife, while she was attending classes at Warsaw’s College of Agriculture. At the time, Jan was eleven years her senior, but shared her love of animals of all shapes and sizes.
Before the start of World War Ⅱ, Jan’s expertise in zoology landed him the role of the Warsaw Zoo’s director in 1929, after the founding director had died. During this time, Jan “…authored approximately 60 books about biology and the psychology of animals, as well as produced a number of very popular radio-shows” (Hiding in Zoo Cages: Jan and Antonina Zabinski, Poland 2017).
Antonina and Jan married in 1931 and moved across the river to Praga, a tough industrial district only fifteen minutes away from downtown Warsaw. From then on, the couple would devote their entire lives to the Warsaw Zoo.
Zeitgeist The Zabinski’s era was shaped by the looming threat of war. “Sometime in the winter of 1937-38, Hitler became convinced that he would not live much longer, and that therefore the time had come to translate the prospect of a greater German Reich into action…” (Lukacs 168). Thus, in 1939, Hitler pushed to incorporate Poland into Germany, “…reducing Poland to a satellite or, at most, to a junior ally of Germany—even at the risk of war” (Lukacs 168). Nine days before Germany invaded Poland, Joachim Ribbentrop, Hitler’s minister of foreign affairs, signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a non-aggression pact