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.

Sincerely,

Tim Thibeault
March 25, 2011
Ottawa, Canada

cc: muzeum.auschwitz.org.pl

cc:freedinasart.wordpress.com



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.



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.



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.



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