Free Dina’s Art


VE Day – 2010

May 8, 1945.  Can it have been 65 years already?

At this time 65 years ago, Dina Gottliebova had just recently tasted freedom and hope after a steady diet of despair and hopelessness. Welcome to a new reality, one might think.

As the camp at Auschwitz was emptied, someone removed the watercolour paintings done by Dina during her internment and the paintings began a series of adventures of their own. Of the paintings’ very earliest adventures, we can only guess. Of their adventures since their positive identification in the early 1970s, we know only too well. And we know very well their role in Dina’s life experience with Human Rights Denial at the hands of  ‘extreme ideologies’.

Even the United Nations’ International Council of Museums is aware of the facts regarding the arbitrary denial of Dina’s property, and thereby of her Human Rights. It is the International Council of Museums that is charged with overseeing Museum Ethics and operating practices around the world. That is a pretty large order and the Council is to be congratulated for its facing up to the task so admirably in most instances.

But in the case of Dina Gottliebova, the International Council of Museums has not done its hastiest work. The Council has studied Dina’s case, and has consulted with many experts in fields related to Art and to Human Rights and to the Responsibilities of Museum Directorates. But today, more than 35 years after the positive identification of the watercolours in question as the work of Dina Gottliebova, the International Council of Museums has been unable or unwilling to apply the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 17a, to Dina Gottliebova and her property.

In the case of Dina Babbitt (née Gottliebova), the International Auschwitz Council (ironically, under the aegis of the United Nations itself,) has decided that the United Nations has no more say in how Auschwitz is run today than it did when Auschwitz opened for business in the first place.

In a brilliant Catch-22, the United Nations, which declared the Auschwitz State Museum a World Heritage Site, has essentially been told by the International Auschwitz Council, to mind its own business because what happens at Auschwitz stays at Auschwitz.

If this situation remains uncorrected, one might be forgiven for wondering if the United Nations lacks a certain moral testicularity – 65 years after the War in Europe was brought to a close and Human Rights were restored for everyone – almost.

In the column at the left, you can find addresses for both the Auschwitz Museum and for ICOM. If you have an opinion in this matter, you can make it known there and do your bit to end the Holocaust and all of its extreme ideologies, once and for all. It could be your little contribution to total Victory in Europe. Happy V.E. Day.

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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.



Worldwide Ethics
December 8, 2009, 1:33 am
Filed under: Active Decency | Tags: , , , , , ,

While awaiting further word from Paris on Dina Babbitt’s Gypsy portraits, it might be helpful to look at another issue recently discussed by the ICOM Ethics Committee.

The Committee met in October of this year and at least one of the issues on their agenda made headlines concerning international affairs. Here is a report from Taiwan News Online concerning ICOM’s take on museum artifacts and the importance of ethical provenance:

Taiwan News Online – October 28, 2009

The provenance of Dina Babbitt’s paintings does not support the Auschwitz Museum’s claims to ownership, and the decision to deprive her of her property is clearly both arbitrary on the part of the International Auschwitz Council, and a violation of her Human Rights.

Those in support of Dina Babbitt’s Human Rights are waiting now for news from ICOM, and from the Auschwitz Museum.



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

_________________

Bernice L. Murphy

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



Fear

“The great strength of the totalitarian state is that it forces those who fear it, to imitate it.”  ~Adolph Hitler

The officials responsible for keeping Dina Babbitt’s paintings from her imagine themselves to be doing so for the greater good of mankind, via a museum, a ‘collective memory’.  They fear that the Holocaust will be forgotten.  Fear.

In order to brace against this possibility, they commit the same human rights abuse that they claim to decry. Fear taints the noble quest with stupidly righteous blunders.

The association of the Auschwitz State Museum with UNESCO and thereby with the International Council of Museums, obliges the museum and its directors to adhere to certain standards of ethics and institutional morality, standards that are well and clearly defined. There is a distinct discrepancy between the museum’s arbitrary decisions concerning Dina Babbitt’s paintings, and those well-defined standards.

Who actually made these seven watercolour portraits?

Under what conditions were they made?

What person or persons living today can lay greater moral and ethical claim to possess them, than their acknowledged creator?

Who owns the fear that is keeping painter and paintings apart?

Now is the time for the institutions involved to ‘man up’, overcome their fears and Free Dina’s Art.

******************************************************************

If you want to practice some active decency here, try this:

Familiarize yourself with the facts of Dina Babbitt’s paintings and her desire to have them returned.

Read a letter from her daughters Michele and Karin, at unobserver.com

Read the online petition(s) and decide for yourself whether to sign.

Write to the Auschwitz Museum and to ICOM to let them know of your interest in Institutions and Human Rights, particularly as they apply to Dina Babbitt’s watercolours.

Tell two of your friends about Dina Babbitt. Tell them to do a web search on Dina Babbitt’s Art.



Yom Ha Shoah

A day set aside to remember the Holocaust? I think this would be an even more special day if it were possible for one survivor to forget the Holocaust.

Unfortunately, as long has her Human Rights are denied by the arbitrary decisions of the government of Poland and the administrators of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, Dina Babbitt will live with the knowledge that the Holocaust is proceeding successfully and uninterrupted, in spite of the UN’s stated intention to protect her Human Rights.

I would like to remind Dr Piotr M. A.  Cywinski of  Auschwitz, and President Lech Kaczynski of Poland that their determined refusal to end the tragic  practice of Human Rights Denial, contributes to the ongoing success of Hitler’s Final Solution.

They must be very proud of their efforts on this special day. He may have been slowed to a crawl, but with his practices continued and protected by these two men and their followers, Hitler has not been stopped.

These hard-working gentlemen can be reached at the following addresses:

President Kaczynski

Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywinski

ICOM can be made aware of your concern at this address:

ethics@icom.museum