“The zoo wasn’t always a first stop for Guests, especially ones escaping the Ghetto, who might spend a night or two downtown with Ewa Brzuska, a short, ruddy, squarish woman in her sixties whom people called ‘Babcia’ (Granny). She owned a tiny grocery on Sedziowske Street, which extended out onto the sidewalk where Ewa arranged barrels of sauerkraut and pickles beside baskets of tomatoes and greens. Neighbors crowded into shop and socialize, despite the German military’s car repair depot right across the road. Every day, a group of Jewish men would be escorted from the Ghetto to work on the cars, and Granny would secretly post their letters or keep watch while they spoke with family members. Tall sacks of potatoes stood around for young smugglers from the Ghetto to hide behind. In 1942, her back rooms became a branch office of an Underground cell, and she stored ID cards, spare birth certificates, money, and bread coupons under barrels of pickled cucumbers and sauerkraut, stashed subversive publications in the stockroom, and often hid escaping Jews for a night, some surely bound for the zoo.” (ch.14, p.117)
I know Diane Ackerman tends to stray and crams too many unnecessary facts in the book. Some readers find the over-descriptive details of nature cloying and terribly annoying. The book, The Zookeeper’s Wife is historical, based on a true story, and is worth a read. My advice is not to rush through it, and allow yourself to sop up the details.