Through the Lion Gate: A History of the Berlin Zoo

With Through the Lion Gate: A History of the Berlin Zoo, historian Gary Bruce (The Firm) delivers a fascinating historical account of Berliners through the lens of their beloved zoo. As a popular institution in Germany's capital, it became a place where animals as well as society was on display. Famous residents such as Bobby the gorilla and Knut the panda captured the hearts of city dwellers from a variety of backgrounds.

Germany's early interest in exotic animals helped shape the Berliner attitude toward the world. The zoo, founded in 1844, offered an escape from gritty city lives with a gathering place that proved more popular than the theater, museums and sporting events. So important was the zoo to city residents that they rescued it from closure several times. During World War II, they came to the zoo in droves, seeking refuge and distraction from the war's devastation, and to take comfort in the presence of the animals.

The Inuit display of 1878 began half a century of human exhibits, and one of the most popular featured Nubians from northeast Africa (Sudan) demonstrating their hunting skills. Bruce's superb storytelling is highlighted by an episode he recounts of young Nubian men working magic on the hearts of women who came to admire their strong physiques and handsome looks. The men were so content basking in female attention that they refused to leave the zoo when their exhibit ended and had to be forced to return home.

Bruce's engaging narrative is complemented with photos of Bobby, Knut and other beloved animals; the Inuit and Nubian tribes; and the beautiful pagoda-style zoo architecture. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer

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