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.


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.

Days and Days and Days
February 9, 2009, 4:51 am
Filed under: Active Decency | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

February 8th marks 32 days of blogging about  Gypsy Portraits and Human Rights. The first letter from here was sent 39 days ago. It remains  unanswered. At least it didn’t elicit the base and insulting form letter previously sent by the Museum, and dealt with vicariously elsewhere in this blog.

The International Council of Museums was notified of this unseemly situation 22 days ago. Within 12 hours, its Ethics Committee members from around the globe appear, at least, to have visited and informed themselves. A written response to that notification would be nice, but the  evident  interest of ICOM is somewhat heartening nonetheless.

Then, 30 days after starting and 8 days after ICOM looked in, we got a visitor from Auschwitz, the German Death Camp in Poland. Perhaps they were inspired to visit by someone else. Whom that might be is difficult to suppose, but they are to be thanked, that’s for sure.

Someone’s letter (maybe yours?)  provoked at least some action and perhaps even second thoughts from the very people who continue to deny Dina Babbitt her Human Rights as defined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, (article 17 and elsewhere). These same people are in violation of ICOM’s Code of Ethics for Museums in several articles, many yet to be explored here.

One of these days someone is going to make the ultimate proper decision in this matter and Dina Babbitt’s Gypsies will return to where they truly belong, her own hands.

What she chooses to do with them then,  is 100% her decision. They are her property and one would certainly expect that no one would try to impose any conditions at all on her Human Right to her own property.

And so, Dina Babbitt waits still. Since her first arrival at Auschwitz, 23,896 days have passed. Since her second arrival, about 16,659 days have passed. Those totals indicate a respectable amount of patience from anyone. To demand more is a completely unnecessary  travesty of reason and justice. The day to right the wrongs of 6 decades, is today.

This is a lady who is hourly battling the ravages of failing health and life itself with little more than hope and a few hundred decent people standing beside her – people who draw comics, who broadcast on the airwaves, and who write letters.

The right decision will be made when the right letter is received by those with the power and the conscience to take action.

That letter will come from someone who sees the simple truth. Anything less than the  immediate, unconditional return of Dina Babbitt’s property is a continuance of a vile transgression dressed in the gown of Society’s Benefit.

That they be fully respected for all persons, must be acknowledged if Human Rights are anything more than just nicely worded phrases attractively arranged on prettily decorated paper.

Human Rights are not a decoration for Society to wear as it gazes at itself in the mirror of the present day. They are the vital nourishment that will keep all societies alive and thriving throughout all the days to come; but only if we are willing to protect them each and every day.

Someone has to write the letters that remind the big shots that the little shots are watching their every move. One of these days, one of those letters will tip the scales and make the difference. Decent people will keep up the pressure until the only acceptable decision is taken. Tell them what you think. Tell them every day.  It could be your letter that finally inspires someone in authority to Free Dina’s Art.

The Museum The ICOM Ethics Committee

A 21st Century Nazi Collaborator in Defense of the Indefensible

A friend of this site sent a polite letter to the Auschwitz  Museum 10 days ago. The following response arrived today. (My own somewhat ’emotional’ letter was sent 21 days ago. I guess my reply got lost in the post.)

Here is the full text of the form-letter you will receive when you send a polite letter to the Oświęcim Party Palace.  It is signed by Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński,  the 21st Century Nazi Collaborator who has taken over the responsibilities of his gone but not forgotten mentor,  Dr. Josef Mengele.

Dear *_Your Name Will Appear Here_*

In reply to your letter the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświecim
wishes to express its deep understanding of emotions arising from the
issue of the watercolors by Mrs. Dina Gottliebova-Babbitt and good
intentions of people who have been involved in this issue.

However, the Museum would like to remark that the actual situation does
not coincide with the one presented in support letters or some world
media. We would like to draw the attention to the fact that the portraits
of Gypsies made in the camp by Mrs. Dina Gottliebova-Babbitt have never
been her property. They were made on the order and for the use of the
SS-Haupsturmfuehrer dr. Joseph Mengele as materials for his
pseudo-scientific work on physical resemblance of Gypsies from various
countries. Nobody asked for permission the Gypsies who were portrayed and their portraits were made under duress.

Therefore we must distinguish between the two basic issues: ownership and
copyright to a particular artwork. There are no doubts that the latter are
owned by Mrs. Dina Gottliebova-Babbitt. Such has been and is the Museum’s
position. As a matter of fact Mrs. Gottliebova-Babbitt has never owned
these watercolors and thus there is no possibility to return them.

At the moment the watercolors play a very important documentary and
educational role as a part of the Museum free of charge permanent
exhibition in Block 13, dedicated to the extermination of Sinti and Roma
in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. These works are also
included in various educational projects, publications and research works.
The Museum has not made commercial use of these works, because we fully
respect the copyright of Mrs. Dina Gottliebova. All decisions regarding
terms and conditions of using these portraits in various publications,
documentaries are made by the author herself.

Considering the moral basis, the Museum agrees with the opinion expressed
by the International Auschwitz Council, Roma circles and former prisoners.
We believe that documents such as these watercolors must not become
ordinary objects for private use. Otherwise the small amount of surviving
evidence of genocide and original artifacts, could be dispersed and the
authentic sites of persecution would be deprived of its unique and < BR>> universal significance.
These watercolors depicting Gypsies who perished in the Auschwitz-Birkenau
concentration camp contribute significantly to commemorate and increase
the awareness of the mass murder
of Sinti and Roma and therefore all victims of genocide. In this case the
opinion of the Roma organizations is univocal and to keep the watercolors
in the Museum is the question of priority. Thus, they should remain at the
site, where they were created, where they speak most loudly and play the
role of the evidence of crime, which cannot be replaced with a copy.

Yours sincerely,
Dr. Piotr M.A.Cywiński
Museum Director

For my own (and no one else’s) Skanky Rebuttal, check the pages list over on the side there, as soon as my blood pressure lowers enough that I don’t see everything as shades of red.

(If YOU have an opinion now, you can use the comments box below.)