Antonia judges everything through externalized moral standards, focusing on other people and their welfare ahead of her own self-interests—she shows this early on in her refusal to leave the zoo, because as she says, “it is not good” for their son to grow up away from home. She argues that he is so excited about starting school, and has bought new shoes and pencils, that she doesn’t want to rob him of that experience—in the face of denying Germany is going to invade Poland. Once they lose all the animals, Antonia starts taking in and rescuing Jews from the local ghetto with her husband’s assistance, relying on her charm and the affection Lutz has for her to keep him out of the way. She admits that she hates him and fears him, but tolerates him touching her, looking longingly at her, and being around her, for their protection. When he later attempts to assault her, and wants her to look at him, she cannot hold back her contempt and tells him straight out that she despises him. She tries to protect her son from seeing the animals shot, and makes it her mission to communicate with and reassure a girl they rescued who was raped, by talking about her own childhood experiences, introducing her to a rabbit, and encouraging her to paint. Antonia both handles the real world competently and at times miscalculates situations—she is an effective zookeeper who knows how to entertain and keep the Jews inside her home safe, but over-estimates her influence over Lutz, assumes the war will not come, and naively risks her life to make inquiries about her husband while the army is clearing out, because of her inferior Ti desire to “know the truth.” She has to make sense of it, come to terms with it, and deal with it on an emotional level, which causes her to take a risk that almost costs her everything.

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Antonia says often, “Let me help you.” She is a warm and comforting presence, both to the animals she loves so much and to the 300 people that pass through her basement. She does their hair over, finds them passports, and sends them on their way. She assumes Lutz loves her enough not to threaten her life, and over-relies on her charm and seductiveness when being around him. She feels upset whenever her husband pulls away from her emotionally, and tries to make up their quarrels with physical affection. She spends a lot of time nurturing the raped girl and trying to help her overcome her trauma, knowing how to approach her and not to press her. Her 1 wing struggles mightily with the immoral things she might have to do, for the greater good; she confesses to a friend that she doesn’t know what to do that is “right” now, especially in how she is leading a man other than her husband “on” to protect them. She doesn’t want to do anything bad.