Free Dina’s Art

ICOM Responds, April 2011
April 7, 2011, 8:21 pm
Filed under: Active Decency | Tags: , , , , , ,

Within 10 days of the most recent request for information, ICOM’s  reply has arrived. Even-sided, level-headed and dripping with integrity and honesty, it says in part:

“…Much inquiry and reflection has continued to be directed to the case of Dina Babbitt’s watercolour portraits of Roma people incarcerated in Auschwitz.

The ICOM Ethics Committee will take account also of the position of the museum, and note its most recent expression of acknowledgment of the rights of the late Dinah Babitt,[sic] as author of the seven watercolour portraits (stated on the museum’s website).

Other colleagues within ICOM have been in touch with the museum in recent years, at the request of the Ethics Committee, to understand this case – and indeed it is highly complex, with many layers.

The Ethics Committee will be meeting this month (April) in Paris, and I will respond again after that time.”

This response represents a reassurance that the issue has not been forgotten by ICOM since Dina Babbitt’s passing, and that is a relief.

Can we accept that the fruit of forced labour belongs rightfully to that person who exacted the work originally, or to whomever may have found a way to benefit through the subsequent acquisition of that work? If we cannot, then it is clear that Dina Babbitt’s Human Rights have indeed been, and continue to be, violated by everyone involved in the daily running of the Auschwitz Camp since its original mandate was altered to change its role in human society from “death camp” to “tourist attraction.”

The next challenge, in a thinking, feeling world, is to convince those people at modern day Auschwitz that no actions carried out in any place, can be of greater import than the causes they  pretend to espouse. When that kind of thinking is allowed to prevail, we shall have already created our next “extreme ideology”. Do we really need that?

Recognition of one’s rights as “author” is not the same as recognition of one’s rights as “human”. Dina Babbitt’s rights as an “author” are undeniably demonstrated by her signature on the works in question. It is her rights as a “human” that need to be recognized and honoured here. The only way to recognize Dina Babbitt’s human rights is to restore her work to its rightful owners, her daughters.


ICOM, What’s Happening?
March 26, 2011, 3:55 am
Filed under: Active Decency | Tags: , , , , , ,
To: the ICOM Ethics Committee
Re: Dina Babbitt’s Human Rights

Dear Committee Members,

I am writing to request any updated information on progress that may have been made by the ICOM Ethics Committee in considering Dina Babbitt’s Human Rights claims against the Auschwitz State Museum, for possession of her Gypsy portraits.

The museum’s history and the rationale behind the granting of its current status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site should certainly accrue the responsibility to adhere most stringently to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

On the Museum’s web page in defence of its morally egregious claim to ownership of Dina Babbitt’s work, the anonymous author stresses that: “In the light of law, the rightful owner of the seven Gypsy portraits is the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. In what regards the author property rights, they belong to Ms. Gottliebova. The Museum being the rightful owner, but without the property rights, is allowed to use them within the limits of permissible public use of protected artifacts, determined in regulation regarding author rights and relative rights.”

This spurious and specious claim violates article 17a of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I believe that the application of an “extreme ideology” is being used by members of the International Auschwitz Council in denying Dina Babbitt’s right to own property, throughout her life and up to the present. This is wrong. It constitutes a contradiction of the Museum’s ultimate moral and ethical mandate while clearly continuing to disregard specific inconvenient  articles of the Universal Declaration.

I would hope the Ethics Committee can see that, in light of this intransigence, there is some question as to whether the Museum can be considered worthy of World Heritage Site status while it continues to disregard the Universal Declaration. Has this question been considered in the deliberations over Dina Babbitt’s art works?

I would sincerely like to understand how Dina Babbitt’s past mistreatment by an authoritarian regime can be used to justify the continuation of such mistreatment by the Museum’s current administrators. Any insights that can be provided would be most appreciated.

Thank you for your time and concern in this matter.


Tim Thibeault
March 25, 2011
Ottawa, Canada


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 <>
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.


Bernice Murphy


Bernice L. Murphy

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

Another Day Another Step Closer

With Dina Babbitt’s death on July 29th, the institutions involved in the arbitrary denial of her property and her human rights, have missed an opportunity to do what is right and to be seen doing so. Instead they chose to stay on a path of denial, in hopes perhaps, that Dina’s passing will prove in some way advantageous to their aims.


The need to recognize and respect Dina Babbitt’s human rights has not lessened with her passing. If anything, it becomes more important now than ever that Dina Babbitt not slip quietly into history as just another example of man’s inhumanity to man, as witness to the trans-generational nature of crude human brutality both physical and spiritual.

Gypsy Boy

By respecting Dina Babbitt’s right to actually possess her own property and to pass it to the hands of her children, we do not endanger the memory of the Holocaust; we will not cause it to be forgotten. We will only bring it one step closer to being truly ended.

Gypsy Woman

The portraits at the center of this issue were made by the hands of Dina Babbitt. This is unquestioned fact. The work was extorted from her. This too is indisputable. The subjects of the portraits have no living descendants. No entity other than the Estate of Dina Gottliebova Babbitt can claim ownership of them except spuriously and dishonestly. The ethical and moral framework in which they are to be considered has been established and very clearly defined by the United Nations itself in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That declaration now needs to be applied.

Gypsy Man

The International Council of Museums has been aware of Dina Babbitt’s claims, and we are told,  has been looking into them, for a longer time than Dina spent in Auschwitz actually making the portraits.  A public statement from ICOM on this matter would seem appropriate at this time.

Gypsy Youth

If the greater good of society is to be realized, it is not by demurring over the human rights of even one person that we will do it.

Dina Gottliebova Babbitt

Now would be a very good time to contact the members of the ICOM Ethics Committee and ask what they are doing to enforce the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (art. 17.2) as it pertains to Dina Gottliebova, Auschwitz prisoner #61016.

The ICOM Ethics Committee can be reached at

Now would be a very good time to Free Dina’s Art.

Not The End
July 29, 2009, 6:39 pm
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Today, July 29, 2009 at 2:15 PM, Dina Gottliebova Babbitt was liberated from Auschwitz.

~Karin Babbitt

International Humanitarian Law
June 22, 2009, 11:51 pm
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The 4th Geneva Convention

Among the arguments not yet considered concerning Dina Babbitt’s Auschwitz paintings, are the articles of the 4th Geneva Convention which include the following:

“Art. 46. In so far as they have not been previously withdrawn, restrictive measures taken regarding protected persons shall be cancelled as soon as possible after the close of hostilities.

Restrictive measures affecting their property shall be cancelled, in accordance with the law of the Detaining Power, as soon as possible after the close of hostilities.”

(Article 97)

“…Articles which have above all a personal or sentimental value may not be taken away….”

Please see Dina Babbitt’s video presentation, and decide for yourself whether the portraits in question have any “personal or sentimental value”.

Further on, in article 97, the following admonition appears:

“…On release or repatriation, internees shall be given all articles, monies or other valuables taken from them during internment…”

Unless there is a valid reason to exempt the current Auschwitz establishment from International Humanitarian Law, they are morally and ethically obliged to return Dina Babbitt’s original paintings to her now.

Art For Dina at
May 16, 2009, 4:23 pm
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While the good people at ICOM are once again investigating the moral and ethical aspects of who should be in possession of the 7 Gypsy Portraits created by Dina Babbitt at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Death Camp, we are all awaiting their findings.

While we wait, we could just twiddle our thumbs and let someone else make  decisions concerning Dina Babbitt, her humanity, and her rights as a human being. And some people will do just that. But not all.

Ed Cherniga, another of the hundreds who stand beside Dina Babbitt, has started a new blog and a new enterprise to restore Dina’s Property and Human Rights as defined by article 17.2 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (“No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.”)

Ed’s brilliant undertaking will put some contemporary artists’ art to work on one common goal –  to free Dina’s art.

The site is here:

Please visit this site, spread the word, share the ideas with your friends, and make some art that expresses YOUR point of view. Dina painted her original art to defend and protect her mother’s life.

Your original art will help restore Dina Babbitt’s Human Rights while defending and protecting your own.