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



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.
http://www.un.org/depts/dhl/humanrights/

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.



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.



Happy Birthday United Nations!
October 24, 2009, 2:40 am
Filed under: Active Decency | Tags: , , , , ,

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

(Source: http://www.un.org/en/events/unday/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.




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.

Sincerely,

Tim Thibeault
Ottawa, Canada

cc: Karin Babbitt
cc: Michele Kane
cc: http://FreeDinasArt.wordpress.com

_______________________________________________________



Arbitrarily Yours
August 27, 2009, 12:26 am
Filed under: Active Decency | Tags: , , , , , ,

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in Article 17.2 declares, “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.” You’ve probably seen that someplace before, eh?

The decision by every consecutive administration of Auschwitz, that the interests of their institution should outweigh the declared Human Rights of #61016, is an arbitrary decision. This has been the case since that institution opened its gates for business in the first half of the last century. More recent administrations have addressed her by her human name, but all have , effectively, treated Dina Babbitt as a number, a thing,  unworthy of full human rights. I wish they would stop that.

What I want to find out now is this: who makes the final decision as to whether keeping Dina Babbitt’s Art from her was, and is, an arbitrary decision? I want to know, who exactly is the arbiter of arbitrariness?

That person (or committee) decides whether the good folks at Auschwitz are in violation of the Declaration of Human Rights, and what can be done to rectify that violation. That’s somebody with an interesting job. Probably an interesting person, too.

I wonder if it’s someone who works at UNESCO?