Free Dina’s Art

A Second Irate Letter

“January 17, 2009
Ottawa, Canada
Ladies and Gentlemen of the ICOM Ethics Committee,

I would like to bring to your attention a matter of great urgency concerning the Auschwitz-Birkenau Holocaust Memorial in Oswiecim, Poland (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and its several ongoing violations of both the spirit and the letter of the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums.

Specifically, I am referring to 7 portraits of Roma people painted at the Auschwitz Death Camp by the prisoner Dina Babbitt (née Gottliebova) – works which were executed on the direct command of Dr. Josef Mengele.

The portraits, once thought lost forever, resurfaced in 1973 and were acquired by the current administrators of Auschwitz who then asked Mrs. Babbitt to authenticate them.

Having identified the paintings as the work of her own hands, Mrs Babbitt was subsequently advised by those administrators that her artworks would not be returned to her, as they are important to that organization (and more importantly by logical extension, to UNESCO), as items of significance to “World Heritage”.

It appears to me that this attribution, places the institution in a position of moral superiority to that of a human being. In effect, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Museum claims title to these pieces in the name of greater numbers of curious people, or as it was popularly phrased in the 1940s, the works belong to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum because, “Millions stand behind me.”

To proclaim the logic of the Auschwitz Camp’s founders as a valid reason to withhold her artworks from their creator and rightful owner, is both unethical and immoral. I believe that this stance violates your own Code of Ethics for Museums, (Article 2.2 – Valid Title).

Particularly disturbing in this matter is the artist’s failing health, and the psychological and spiritual harm she endures because of your member institution’s callous and egregious disregard for her as a Human Being. This disregard is, irrefutably, a prolongation of Dr Mengele’s own attitude to her human value. It represents to me, the Auschwitz Museum’s ethical slap across the face of a fragile aging victim of that institution’s founders, 64 years after that practice is claimed to have been ended.

This attitude, and its continuance, makes a complete mockery of the phrase, “Never again.” since it is impossible and unnecessary to repeat an activity that has never been stopped in the first place.

There are many more articles in the Code which I believe are being violated by the current administrators of Auschwitz. In particular, I am concerned about the disrespect being shown by the Museum for your Code of Ethics’ articles listed here:

2.3 – Provenance and Due Diligence
2.4 – Objects and Specimens From Unauthorized or Unscientific Fieldwork
2.5 – Culturally Sensitive Material
and numerous others….

Ladies and Gentlemen, it would be easy to make this small document a tome; instead, allow me to refer you, and the current administrators of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, to the website, in which these points are being laid out daily, one by one, along with the reasons I, and so many others, feel these issues need to be addressed.

Since Mrs. Babbitt is in failing health, I would respectfully suggest that while you are investigating these issues, the artworks themselves should be returned to their rightful owner while she is still alive and able to appreciate them.

Only Dr. Josef Mengele and those who see his logic and tactics as valid, harmless, and of benefit to Society, would deny this simple, humanitarian request at a time of such vulnerability for his victim, Dina Gottliebova-Babbitt.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I implore you not to defend the Millions who stand behind Evil. Instead, join the Human Beings who stand beside Dina Babbitt, and help restore to her, her possessions and her Dignity as a respected Human Being and one who should not suffer any longer, from protracted institutional indifference to human pain.

I thank you for your attention and look forward to your response to my concerns.

Very Sincerely Yours,”

…and I signed it.

My own original letter having been ignored, I was offered a copy of the museum’s standard form letter as it was presented to a friend. I found it to be so outrageously crude in terms of morals and ethics, that I can only offer this equally skanky rebuttal to its callous and hurtful arguments.


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