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.

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.


Holocaust Hypocrisy

In early April of 2010, a poor old man in Rome tried to take some of the heat off his boss by comparing the world’s righteous revulsion at Vatican protected pedophilia to the very unrighteous collective rudeness of the Holocaust.

Naturally, this comparison seriously burned some people, particularly those who know the difference between a yarmulke and a Yamaha, and who make it their life’s work to taunt the rest of the world with the fact that some of your ancestors may have done some very bad things to some of their ancestors a long time ago.

That any man could make such a comparison is an outrage worthy of worldwide attention and condemnation according to the poor old geezer’s critics.

Those critics don’t like it when the world is mean to its Jews. Being mean to Jews is bad and it must not be tolerated even in the feeble-minded babblings of an addle-pated old hypocrite in a floor length gown.  So we’d better get the world’s attention and rant about this until someone apologizes and promises never to do it again. If bad things aren’t stopped early and completely, another Holocaust is surely just around the corner.

Personally, I believe it might not be out of order to find someone of that same old man’s generation and ask him or her to give that old man a very brisk slap across the face and tell him to give his head a shake, get a grip on himself (metaphorically), and try to see the light. But I digress…

The true light in all of this is the radiant glow that emanates from the hypocrisy of those same critics of that poor old Vatican babbler. They are shocked, SHOCKED (apparently) that such an idea could be uttered by someone in such a position.  The thoughts of what some might call a powerless old fool are too hurtful to be put into words and spoken aloud.

And yet, the actions of the International Auschwitz Council are not the least bit offensive when they demonstrate the need for the curtailment of Jewish Human Rights in order to benefit their museum and so, to keep the members of the IAC in their highly respectable positions on ‘the Council’. The arbitrary decision of the IAC to deny Dina Babbitt her Human Rights, to keep her property for their own shows a pitiable congruence to the thinking of Dr Josef Mengele who first promulgated the so far very successful notion that the State’s work undertaken at Auschwitz is, and always will be, more important than the Human Rights of any Jew.

But, according to the practices and policies of the International Auschwitz Council, that’s the way it is, and no old loon in a dress is allowed to pretend that the evil done to his boss is anywhere near as bad as the evil we re currently allowed to inflict on anyone we choose as long as they are Jewish and used to live (rent free) at Auschwitz.

Sometimes, I’m afraid that I’m the only person on earth who sees the stupidity in what well organized groups of people are willing and even anxious to do to one another just so they can call themselves thoughtful humanitarians.


There are some links on the left in case you’d like to drop a note to anyone to share your thoughts on this matter.

February 2010 – Waiting for Word…
February 11, 2010, 6:24 pm
Filed under: Active Decency | Tags: , , , ,

It has been three months since the  ICOM Ethics  Committee met in Paris. The matter of Dina Babbitt’s Art and Human Rights was, I believe, on the agenda of that meeting, at least as a point of discussion.

It may be overly optimistic to look for results so soon. I’m hoping not. Knowing that the Ethics Committee is very earnest in its work, and having already sent the following message, I am now wondering if I am being too pushy too soon, or if 12 weeks is a reasonable amount of time after which to seek out fresh information to confirm that Dina’s Art and her Human Rights are not forgotten.

Well, hasty or not, here is the most recent missive to my contact at ICOM.

February 10, 2010 (12:50 hrs EST)
Ottawa, Canada

Dear Mrs Murphy,

I am writing to request any further information you might be able to offer on the matter of the Auschwitz Museum and Dina Babbitt’s human rights claims, specifically the return of her Gypsy portraits.

Since Mrs Babbitt’s recent death, the museum’s current practice now encroaches on the human rights of not just one person, but of five, Mrs. Babbitt’s heirs.

I appreciate that the Ethics Committee, no doubt, has a full roster of issues and one that encompasses many larger problems than this. Nevertheless I believe that human rights, defined as clearly as they are in the UN Universal Declaration, should be a concept readily accessible to any thinking person, most particularly to those who work where humanity’s extremes of good and evil are most starkly documented.

I thank you for your efforts and whatever information you can provide at this time, as well as for the many other instances where the Ethics Committee works to achieve a global standard of humanly respectable museum practices and policies. It is commendable work toward a worthy goal.


Tim Thibeault

cc: Karin Babbitt
cc: Michele Kane

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.

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

Any News Yet?
September 23, 2009, 4:24 am
Filed under: Active Decency | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Research into the UN Human Rights Council complaints procedure indicates that a complaint will not be heard by the UN Human  Rights  Council while it is already being considered by another organization (such as ICOM).

So, another twelve weeks having passed, the appropriate course of action seems to be to write a follow up note to the Ethics Committee.


September 23, 2009
Ottawa, Canada

Dear Mrs Murphy,

Another three months has passed, and I am writing to enquire if there has been any progress in ICOM’s investigation into the Auschwitz Birkenau State Museum and the portraits painted there by Dina Babbitt. More directly perhaps, I am seeking reassurance that this matter has not been allowed to fall aside, or diminish in importance, since the death of Mrs. Babbitt on July 29th this year. It remains a question of an ongoing Human Rights violation by a UNESCO endorsed institution.

As you may recall, it was Mrs Babbitt’s most heartfelt desire that her works should be returned to her own hands, “…the hands that made them…”, and then be passed on to her children and grandchildren since her interaction with the subjects of the portraits, and their individual roles in Dina Babbitt’s life story, constitute a vital part of her legacy.

I believe, Mrs Murphy, that the moments passed in the making of those portraits represented for Dina Babbitt, a sense of knowing powerlessness that is, mercifully, inaccessible to a majority of contemporary people. In a brief note to me in January of this year, Mrs Babbitt said, in part,”…But when I was refused to take my paintings home in 1973 at the museum, I felt as helpless as when I was a prisoner again…”

Can we honestly suppose that any institution should be so empowered? Is there any statement in any document from the UN, UNESCO, or ICOM that supports the right of the Museum to deprive Dina Babbitt of her property?  I believe not.

I look forward to any information you can provide at this time and I thank you.


Tim Thibeault
Ottawa, Canada

cc: Karin Babbitt
cc: Michele Kane


A Simple Solution

Give Them to Everybody

Although the current administration of Auschwitz, has seen the end results for Dina Babbitt, of one “Final Solution”, I would suggest that the question of de-accessioning and returning Dina Babbitt’s property (and human rights)  has not yet been satisfactorily answered.

Since the true value of Dina’s work, as stated by the Museum’s own apologists, is in effect to prolong the memory of the Holocaust, why not just publish high-resolution copies of her work on the net?

Return the originals to their rightful owners and make copies available to the whole world.

That way, everyone who has heard Dina’s story will be able to see what all the fuss is about. Being only facsimiles behind a glass screen instead of originals, the experience of seeing Dina’s art, life-sized, on-line and behind glass, would be aesthetically identical to seeing high-resolution copies of the portraits behind glass at their current location in the Polish Abattoir of the Soul.

And, just to clarify the source of this ongoing tragedy, Auschwitz may have begun as a German sin, but it is now a one hundred percent Polish sin. (Is Lech Kaczynski a president, or a puppet?)

The seeds of Human Rights Abuse, planted in long-dead German ideology, have thrived and blossomed in 21st Century Polish ideology, nurtured by the recurring failures of the Polish Government and of ICOM to shake off ideological tyranny, and to comport themselves in a way that respects both humanity and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


You can find another way to practice active decency here, at Ed Cherniga’s very worthy art undertaking in Philadelphia, USA: