Synopses & Reviews
The unbelievable true story of the Cold War's strangest proxy war, fought between the zoos on either side of the Berlin Wall.
"The liveliness of Mohnhaupt's storytelling and the wonderful eccentricity of his subject matter make this book well worth a read." Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Living in West Berlin in the 1960s often felt like living in a zoo, everyone packed together behind a wall, with the world always watching. On the other side of the Iron Curtain, East Berlin and its zoo were spacious and lush, socialist utopias where everything was perfectly planned... and then rarely completed.
Berlin's two zoos in East and West quickly became symbols of the divided city's two halves. So no one was terribly surprised when the head zookeepers on either side started an animal arms race — rather than stockpiling nuclear warheads, they competed to have the most pandas and hippos. Soon, state funds were being diverted toward giving these new animals lavish welcomes worthy of visiting dignitaries. West German presidential candidates were talking about zoo policy on the campaign trail. And eventually politicians on both side of the Wall became convinced that if their zoo proved to be inferior, that would mean their country's whole ideology was too.
A quirky piece of Cold War history unlike anything you've heard before, The Zookeepers' War is an epic tale of desperate rivalries, human follies, and an animal-mad city in which zookeeping became a way of continuing politics by other means.
"An offbeat tale from the Cold War...with plenty of near-comical turns." Kirkus Reviews
"Cold War Berlin bursts to life in this riveting, lively German bestseller chronicling the fierce rivalry between zoos on either side of the Iron Curtain... Mohnhaupt is a keen guide to the difficulties of a divided Berlin and to the enchantment of a career devoted to wild animals." Publishers Weekly
"A highly entertaining true story that is sure to delight history buffs and general audiences alike." America Magazine
About the Author
Jan Mohnhaupt has written for many of Germany's leading newspapers and magazines . The Zookeepers' War is his first book to be translated into English. He lives in Munich, where he's happy to be close to one of his favorite zoos.
Shelley Frisch's award-winning translations from German include biographies of Friedrich Nietzsche, Albert Einstein, Marlene Dietrich, Leni Riefenstahl, and Franz Kafka. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey.