Free Dina’s Art

December 10, 2010
December 10, 2010, 8:12 am
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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.

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.


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.


Happy Birthday United Nations!
October 24, 2009, 2:40 am
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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


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.

Cognitive Dissonance
September 3, 2009, 6:10 am
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In Sanford, California in 1957 Leon Festinger identified one of the most lamentable states in which the human mind can find itself. When we try to hold  conflicting ideas simultaneously, our human tendency is to experience a sense of anxiety, leaving us in a sorry mental condition. Festinger called the cause of this condition ‘cognitive dissonance’.

Consider the plight of twenty-first century tobacco smokers. They know (and by “they” I mean “we”) that smoking tobacco can, or might, or probably will kill them. And yet, some continue to smoke in spite of such knowledge.  THAT is cognitive dissonance. Continuing an evil practice while knowing that it is wrong creates cognitive dissonance. If you are going to do that, try to ensure that you are hurting only yourself, and the world can have no issue with your choices.

But there is at least one instance in which a person can participate fully in knowingly committing evil deeds, and still escape the pangs of both conscience and cognitive dissonance. That instance is when one is part of a committee.

Much like the members of a firing squad who can convince themselves that they had no part in killing a human being because there were others present who were equally likely to have fired a live round at a living person, the members of a committee (from what I have observed) can count themselves as highly respected intellectuals, as doctors, humanitarians and even religious teachers.  They can consider themselves “respectable” even though their collective arbitrary decisions profoundly affect the lives of people they haven’t ever met.

Members of a committee, if they are shallow enough human beings, can convince themselves (but not me) that they are doing good and important work when they deny others the human rights that their own parent organization declares to be universal. They can commit with impunity the very sins they claim to hate and to be trying to stop from ever happening again. And they can defend their decisions with the most scurrilous and spurious reasons.

Somewhere within the first five books of the Bible, a person truly interested in religion could find four little words well worth contemplating. Those words are, “Thou shalt not steal.”

And yet these same  people can know that someone else has been profoundly hurt by their choices and actions and still feel no sense of responsibility at all. No cognitive dissonance can occur where conscience is absent. That is a shame. It is especially regrettable to see such behaviour originating with people who are trying to convince themselves and the world that the evil they are currently committing is somehow different and more noble than the same evil as practiced by others in the past.

Such people, whether committee members or not, are wrong to hurt others only to glorify their own evil deeds as acts of nobility or civilization. In their own minds, they may convince themselves that they are good people, but Leon Festinger might have told them otherwise.

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


“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

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.

ICOM in Action
April 16, 2009, 7:06 am
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Very shortly after my latest  note to ICOM  (April 11/09), I have received a frank and transparent reply that relieves many doubts for me.

I was  (understandably, I hope) beginning to wonder if  I wasn’t  just being loaded onto another P-R merry-go-round and invited to listen to the nice music while spinning in circles and going nowhere.  Such a doubtful outlook is the predictable result of having endured more than one complimentary corporate carousel ride in the past.

It is important to realize that each of us can make a difference in getting Dina Babbitt’s possessions returned to her, and in having her Human Rights respected once and for all, after 36 years. It is equally important to remember that as pretty as circles may be, circles aren’t progress.

At this point, it appears that the most constructive thing I can do, is to continue making the facts of this matter known as widely as possible across thinking human society. I am counting on the humanity of ordinary people to trump the arbitrary decisions of the highly respected doctors of this world.

I have trouble trusting those who would save us from their own definitions of our human frailty, (from Josef Mengele right up to the present day), by taking charge of our Human Rights for us, by keeping our Human Rights safely out of our hands,  and perhaps displaying them in a museum somewhere to demonstrate how evil the denial of Human Rights actually is.

In that cynical mindset, I fear that Dina Babbitt could end up  having not merely “fallen through the cracks ” in someone’s arbitrary logic, but having been willfully  stuffed through those cracks. And that would be bad.

With this jaundiced view of the whole procedure, I was inspired to ask for  further assurance in hopes of learning that ICOM was doing something active and specific.

The following reply was quickly dispatched. I am reproducing it in full to avoid misinterpretation. It satisfies me on every level and leaves me leery on only one, perhaps unavoidable, point – the question of time.

More on that later. What follows, is the most recent letter I have received from the lady who works for ICOM. I emphasize that this lady works for ICOM because this letter (and presumably our previous correspondence) is not an official statement of anything from the International Council of Museums.


Date:    14 April 2009 (23:00 pm 14/4/09-Aust)
To:       Mr Tim Thibeault (Canada)
From:   Chair, ICOM Ethics Committee (Bernice Murphy)
Re:       Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Vs claim of Mrs Dinah Gottliebová–Babbitt

Dear Mr Thibeault,

I write to acknowledge your email message received last Saturday (11 April 2009).

The situation at this moment remains as I reported in my last response (of 1 April):

I have raised queries as to whether there is any new action or further significant information to be added to our knowledge of this case. I will report back to my colleagues on the Ethics Committee when I gain a response, so that they may be informed as to whether they believe there is cause for any further consideration or action on ICOM’s behalf.

On 27 March I took two actions:

(a)     I wrote (anew) to a respected museum colleague within our ICOM networks in Europe, who previously gathered reports for the Ethics Committee on this case, and coordinated a careful sifting of many details gained from various sources as to what seemed to be the most significant factual issues concerning this saddening dispute arising from such tragic circumstances of history.

(b)     I informed my colleagues on ICOM’s Ethics Committee that I was again raising an inquiry about this case – as to whether any circumstances had changed since my earlier inquiries of 2007.

I now await news from museum colleagues in Europe (which could take some weeks to receive).  I will then report back to the Ethics Committee as to what emerges, and seek their views at that point.

Only after that time would I be in a position to provide some further comment from the Ethics Committee on behalf of ICOM.


Bernice Murphy

cc. Secretariat of ICOM


This letter suggests action and specificity enough to encourage me to wait a few weeks more.

The scariest part of this letter though, is the phrase “…which could take some weeks.”  I worry a bit about the time factor here  and would have been more reassured by a specific time frame. However, past experience with the ICOM Ethics Committee reassures me that the time requirement here is valid. When I first contacted them, it took less than a day for this site’s statistics to show hits from around the globe, one for each country represented on the Ethics Committee.

I further believe that ICOM is not about to rush into anything based on my opinion. (We are best educated when we educate ourselves.) In that sense, I am gratified that the committee is indeed educating itself and will, I trust, look at this issue from a Human Rights standpoint as well.

Finally, I would like to stress that nothing in the ICOM correspondence I have reproduced here, should be construed to be an official statement from ICOM itself. I have some doubts about the fairness of publishing these letters and do so only so that interested readers will not be subjected to my personal bias in interpreting them. When the ICOM Ethics Committee has gathered, and looked at, the facts, I’m sure they will do what is right.

Until then, this whole line of correspondence has been for me, just one disgruntled villager asking someone who works in the castle, at which castle door the assembled mob should gather with it’s torches and pitchforks.

For a while at least, I can be patient.