Free Dina’s Art


December 10, 2010
December 10, 2010, 8:12 am
Filed under: Active Decency | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Happy Birthday Human Rights Day

“Respect for human rights and human dignity “is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”, the General Assembly declared…in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1950, all States and interested organizations were invited by the General Assembly to observe 10 December as Human Rights Day (resolution 423(V)).

The Day marks the anniversary of the Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Over the years, a whole network of human rights instruments and mechanisms has been developed to ensure the primacy of human rights and to confront human rights violations wherever they occur.”

~United Nations’ Human Rights Day Web Site.
http://www.un.org/depts/dhl/humanrights/

The most significant part of the above statement might be its acceptance of responsibility “…to confront human rights violations wherever they occur.”

Certainly in the matter of Dina Babbitt’s human right not to be arbitrarily deprived of her property (U.N. Universal Declaration, Article 17a.), there remains some work to be done. To date, behind-the-scenes communications are apparently being conducted between members of the International Council of Museums and other parties concerning the Auschwitz Museum’s claim that it is morally and ethically in rightful possession of Dina’s gypsy portraits.

The Museum maintains that it has a right to arbitrarily deprive Dina Babbitt of her property.  Part of its argument involves the apparently sacred nature of Auschwitz itself, where the portraits were made. Because of the atrocities committed at Auschwitz, it, as a place, is more important to humanity than any actual member of humanity who was interned there. Some believe that this doesn’t make much sense.

In light of the hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of human beings who were slaughtered there in the name of extreme ideology, Auschwitz and the earth is indeed sacred ground. As such, it should certainly not be used to generate income no matter how noble the cause, since those who are paid from the funds raised, are in ethical danger of profiteering from the very Holocaust they claim to deplore.

Far better for the ground on which Auschwitz stands, would it be for contemporary humankind to recognize its failure for nearly a century to use this land in a truly human manner. Instead of a prison, or a concentration camp, or a death camp, or a museum to celebrate the horrors of a death camp, perhaps the land itself should be fenced off from all human contact from now on. Let us give the land on which Auschwitz stands back to its Creator and see what He would do with it.

Move out the Death House Treasures for those who would profit from such things; the evil evidence of humanity’s penchant for inhuman behaviour has no place on sacred ground. It is not the evil that occurred there that makes Auschwitz sacred. It is the passage of so many human souls through one small place, a jagged rip in the tapestry of human history that sanctifies the earth there. The land itself is sacred and should not be tainted by a tradition of human inability to behave humanely.

The Death House Treasures should not be used to lay open the wounds of mankind’s wretched past. While it is important to remember the past in order not to repeat it, it is equally important not to dwell in the past, but to recognize the promise of the future and to recognize humanity not as an achievement already attained, but as a goal yet to be fully realized.

The International Auschwitz Council can easily attain the goal of being more fully human by recognizing Dina Babbitt’s human rights and putting her portraits in  the hands into which she fervently wished to place them herself.

When the United Nations urges the IAC to recognize Dina Babbitt’s human rights and return her property, it will have confronted the human rights violations that occur at the Auschwitz State Museum.

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You can remind the Auschwitz State Museum and the International Council of Museums of your concern for human rights and how they can help.  Their addresses are linked on the left.

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Dina’s Story in Popular Culture
January 3, 2010, 4:12 pm
Filed under: Active Decency | Tags: , , , , , ,

Among Dina Babbitt’s friends and supporters during her lifetime were many artists, illustrators and cartoonists. In 2009, the people behind Marvel Comics depicted her story in one of their more popular graphic novel series,  “X-Men, Magneto Testament.”

The story in that issue has been made into a video production and is now available on YouTube. You can see it for yourself here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8Q-7_jLMs4



ICOM? Are you still there?

This site reaches its first anniversary on January 1, 2010 as a now international effort to have Dina Babbitt’s artworks returned to their rightful owners by the International Auschwitz Committee. Dina Babbitt fully deserved during her lifetime, recognition of her status as a human being to whom certain clearly defined rights are accorded by international agreement, and, allegedly, by the International Auschwitz Committee itself.

In spite of their stated, and apparently noble goals, the IAC has failed miserably in the pursuit of those noble-sounding ideals. Dina Babbitt was denied her rights by the original owners of the Auschwitz Camp. The current owners also refuse, as they have for over 36 years, to acknowledge Dina’s Human Rights by relinquishing her property. They CLAIM to recognize Dina Babbitt as a human being, but in keeping her works from her, their actions can only underscore the falsehood of those claims.

Through our words, we show the world only that which we wish the world to think we are.  Through our actions we show the world who we truly are.

This pitiably blind group, the International Auschwitz Committee, has made itself the sole institutional heir to Hitler’s ideology that only those with power can define what is right and human. Both Hitler and the current IAC would maintain that the goals of the institution established at Auschwitz (whether the year be 1943, 1952 or 2010) are of paramount importance in making this world a better place.

Those goals may appear, through careful wording, to have changed over time but they have not. In essence, the IAC maintains that what was made at Auschwitz must stay at Auschwitz in order for the crimes committed there to be made right. And, there is no one better suited to define what is right than the administrators of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp/Tourist Attraction.

The art itself, 7 portraits of Gypsy Holocaust victims, was made by Dina Babbitt in her teen years while she was an internee at Auschwitz. Each of the persons depicted in the portraits was murdered soon after his or her portrait was completed.

It was the Nazi plan to demonstrate the racial inferiority of their victims and thus justify their monstrous humanity-denying practices. What happened to those victims was immaterial once the Nazis had what they wanted.

The International Auschwitz Committee, through its ongoing institutional behaviour is living proudly up to the standards established by Hitler and his cohorts. What happened to Dina Babbitt was immaterial to the International Auschwitz Committee once they had what they desired – Dina Babbitt’s possessions.

Due to the rigorous efforts of the International Auschwitz Committee, Dina Babbitt suffered for the rest of her life and died on July 29, 2009  without ever having enjoyed the benefits of what the United Nations calls its, “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Let us hope that by next year at this time, Mr. Hitler’s work at Auschwitz will have been stopped completely. Let us strive to see the International Auschwitz Committee live up to its mandate and Free Dina’s Art.

International Council of Museums, it’s your turn to say something now.



Thanksgiving 2009
November 27, 2009, 5:16 pm
Filed under: Active Decency | Tags: , , , , ,

Thanksgiving Day 2009 has come and gone. Across America, people have pushed back their chairs, loosened their belts a notch or two, and thought of the things for which they are thankful – and of the things for which they would LIKE to be thankful.

Dina Babbitt had many thoughts of gratitude during the years she waited for the return of her property from the current administrators of the camp  where the denial of her human rights began over sixty years ago.

Dina was particularly grateful for the USA and the freedom it offered her after her ordeal in 1940s Europe. She was grateful for her family and the security they could enjoy in a society that respects human beings and their universally recognized rights.

There was one thing, however, for which she would have liked to be grateful. Dina Babbitt longed for one thing that was not to be granted in her lifetime. She longed for the return of her possessions, for the respect of her own human right to possess the things she made and owned.

The  small collection of  Gypsy portraits forced from her hands under  conditions of incomprehensible moral and ethical depravity,  and now denied her by the museum administrators at Auschwitz and their protectors, were to haunt Dina Babbitt to the end of her days. All she asked for was the return of seven little pieces of paper that belonged to her.

The irony in her wish was that the very institution that tried to dehumanize her and to replace her name with a number, although eventually ‘liberated’ and turned into a museum, has maintained its underlying extremist ideology that the work carried out on the grounds of the Auschwitz camp is more  important than the rights of any individual. This argument was in vogue when Auschwitz opened its doors for business and it remains in vogue today. That’s a bloody shame.

Someday, I hope to  be grateful that  human rights denial is no longer an official practice anywhere on the globe.  For today, I am grateful that I do not understand humanity’s potential for evil to the degree that Dina Babbitt came to understand it throughout her life.



Happy Birthday United Nations!
October 24, 2009, 2:40 am
Filed under: Active Decency | Tags: , , , , ,

Sixty-four years ago today, on October 24, 1945 the United Nations was born, kicking and screaming after 5 years of labour, and covered in the blood of innumerable innocents. More or less.

Today, these words from U.N. Headquarters:

“The United Nations is doing its utmost to respond — to address the big issues, to look at the big picture. We are forging a new multilateralism that can deliver real results for all people, especially those most in need.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Message on UN Day, 24 October 2009

(Source: http://www.un.org/en/events/unday/2009/)

However noble we may perceive our cause to be, we are wrong to punish innocents in its name. The Museum at Auschwitz, in denying Dina Babbitt her property based on whatever arbitration, has performed an epic fail on moral, ethical and humanitarian levels.

As the United Nations enters its 65th year, I wish them all, each and every nation of them, only one thing – unity. It would be good if we could all see even briefly, through the eyes of those we victimize in the name of our particular ideologies. That would help unite the nations for sure.




September Update

‘Enough good people’  not doing nothing…

Today, Edmund Burke might fret a little less about the triumph of evil, which he said needs only “…for enough good people to do nothing.”

Until recently, the Ethics Committee of the International Council of Museums, while aware of Dina Babbitt’s portraits and  aspects of the controversy surrounding them, had not closely scrutinized Dina’s claim. (No one had asked them to, and the rest of the planet offers new ethical challenges daily, no doubt.) It appears now however, that something is about to change.

Perhaps ‘enough good people’ have written letters and signed petitions to bring Dina Babbitt’s Gypsy Portraits to ICOM’s direct attention, specifically to the attention of ICOM’s Ethics Committee. They have spent the last several months taking a closer look, it seems.

I have written to ICOM a few times myself, and have exchanged emails with only one person there, right from the start. Although I do not consider these messages to be official ICOM statements, I do consider them to contain information from the proverbial “reliable source”. I include them here so that the reader doesn’t have to rely on my possibly biased interpretation. Instead, you can read the letter for yourself and jump immediately to your own conclusions.

Essentially, my last letter asked for an assurance that with Dina’s passing, ICOM’s interest wouldn’t wane or get side-tracked. The response, I received very promptly.

Date: 28 September 2009 (23:50hrs/Aust)
To:   Mr Tim Thibeault, Ottawa <XXXX@xxx.ca>
From: Bernice Murphy (Chairperson, ICOM Ethics Committee)
Re:   Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Vs. Claim of the late Mrs D G Babbitt
Cc:   ICOM Director General, ICOM President, ICOM Secretariat

Dear Mr Thibeault,

I write to acknowledge your message of last Wednesday (23 September 2009).

It was with sadness that I learned of the death of Mrs Babitt recently, on 29 July, and condolences are due to her family and friends.

Mrs Babbitt’s claim for return of her works, and the position taken by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, will be discussed when the ICOM Ethics Committee meets in October, in Paris.

For various reasons, the Committee has not met formally since May 2008, although much work continues in the meantime by email and other channels.

I will respond to you after the Ethics Committee has had the opportunity to consider the case again, in the light of the most detailed research and recent advice we have been able to gather through our museum networks.

Sincerely,

Bernice Murphy

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Bernice L. Murphy

Chairperson, ICOM Ethics Committee/International Council of Museums, Paris



“…A Sign of Warning…”

UNESCO Criterion under which Auschwitz enjoys “World Heritage” Status.

“Criterion (vi): be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal value.”

“Auschwitz – Birkenau, monument to the deliberate genocide of the Jews by the Nazi regime (Germany 1933-1945) and to the deaths of countless others bears irrefutable evidence to one of the greatest crimes ever perpetrated against humanity. It is also a monument to the strength of the human spirit which in appalling conditions of adversity resisted the efforts of the German Nazi regime to suppress freedom and free thought and to wipe out whole races. The site is a key place of memory for the whole of humankind for the holocaust, racist policies and barbarism; it is a place of our collective memory of this dark chapter in the history of humanity, of transmission to younger generations and a sign of warning of the many threats and tragic consequences of extreme ideologies and denial of human dignity.”
source: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/31

Does anyone else see a source of cognitive dissonance in juxtaposition of the denial of human dignity experienced by Dina Babbitt as she was arbitrarily deprived of her property by the International Auschwitz Committee, with the spectacular display of Olympic-calibre rhetorical gymnastics in the above paragraph?

The shabbiest of behaviours can be dressed in the noblest of words; the naked truth is that the denial of respect for #61016’s Human Rights and Dignity constitutes the active and deliberate continuation of treatment she has received at the hands of all Auschwitz officials since Dina Gottliebova was first assigned a number in 1943.

I strongly disapprove of this.

I believe UNESCO needs to reconsider Auschwitz’s status as a World Heritage Site in light of the IAC’s ongoing violation of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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Further reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Former_UNESCO_World_Heritage_Sites