How To Build Python 2.4 With Zlib
For whatever reason Python 2.4 by default builds without zlib.
I found a fix at stack overflow but had to combine both recipes to make it work.
The working solution for Debian Wheezy to use system zlib:
./configure --with-zlib=/usr/include --prefix=... sed -i "s/^#zlib/zlib/g" Modules/Setup make make install
On my system this ended up linking the python binary against libz, rather than having a zlib.so module.
You will want to ensure zlib1g-dev in installed.