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Dina Babbitt's Quest

Retired animator seeks return of paintings she was forced to create while at Auschwitz By Frank Moldstad

This portrait of a Gypsy woman condemned to the Nazi gas chambers was painted by Dina Babbitt in 1944.
Does art belong to the artist, or to the ages? Dina Babbitt, retired animator and ex-wife of legendary Disney animator Art Babbitt, is seeking the return of paintings she created under duress while an inmate at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. Her quest is now gaining ground, thanks to support from the international artist community, major media and even the U.S. government.

Babbitts artistic talent was spotted at Auschwitz by notorious Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, who forced her to paint portraits of condemned Gypsies in support of his crackpot theories about physical attributes and racial superiority. Originally from Czechoslovakia, Babbitt (born Dinah Gottliebova) and her mother survived their internment, but first had to endure a forced march from the camp ordered by the Nazis in 1945 when Russian soldiers were closing in.

Now 83 years old and living in Felton, CA, Babbitt has been trying to get the paintings back ever since 1973, when she discovered that seven of the watercolors had survived the war. They are now on exhibit at the Polish government-run Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, which contends that they are an important part of the historical record.


Recently, however, a number of prominent people have rallied to Babbits cause. In September 2006, a petition signed by 450 artists on her behalf was presented to the museum. Reproduced below, the petition includes signatories such as ?Spider-Man  creator Stan Lee, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author/illustrators Art Spiegelman and Michael Chabon. The petition was organized by cartoonist Joe Kubert and The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.

Klubert was partly spurred to action by the fact that in 2003 he had written a fictional book called ?Yossel," which concerned a young cartoonist spared by the Nazis because they liked his drawings. In a letter supporting the peition, Klubert says, ?I did not know that there had been a real-life case that bore similarities to my book. I was stunned to learn of Mrs. Babbitt, and even more stunned by the Polish government's position.

The petition drew attention from the "New York Times," "Los Angeles Times," "Chicago Tribune" and other major newspapers, which published articles on the situation. According to the "Los Angeles Times," U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) has taken up the cause, as has J. Christian Kennedy, the State Department's special envoy for Holocaust issues.

Babbitt, whose animation career included coloring and drawing characters such as Speedy Gonzalez and Daffy Duck at Warner Bros.and Hanna-Barbera, met the late Disney animator Art Babbitt in Paris in the 1950s. He was a principal contributor to such films as Fantasia and Snow White. They divorced in the 1960s.

Now in her 80s, Dina Babbitt is reconciling herself to some sort of compromise solution with the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum that would return several of the paintings to her. "If there is no other chance, I will have to," she told the "Los Angeles Times." "What else can I do? I'm not going to live long anymore. So at least I want to hold them."

The text of the peition on Dina Babbitt's behalf follows.

 

Mr. Piotr Cywinski, Director
Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum
Oswiecim, Poland
muzeum@auschwitz.org.pl

Dear Mr. Cywinski:

As cartoonists, animators, and comic book artists and creators, we are deeply troubled that the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum has refused to return the portraits that our colleague, Mrs. Dina Gottliebova Babbitt, painted in Auschwitz in 1944.

The fundamental principle that art belongs to the artist who created it is recognized everywhere except in totalitarian countries. One would hope that Poland, having been liberated from totalitarian rule, would not revert to the mentality that regards everything as the property of the state.

We agree that the display of Mrs. Babbitt's artwork is of great educational value, and we are pleased that the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum recognizes their importance. But that educational purpose could just as easily be achieved by displaying high-quality reproductions of the paintings, while returning the originals to their creator and rightful owner.

Mrs. Babbitt has suffered enough. We implore you to do the right thing and give her back her paintings.

Sincerely,

Joe Kubert
Adam Kubert
Andy Kubert

Stan Lee
Paul Levitz
Joe Quesada
Neal Adams
Jim Steranko
Harlan Ellison

Paul Abitabile
Charlie Adlard
Gerry Alanguilan
Jon Alderink
Ã?scar Camarero Alejandro
Scott Allie
Michael Allred
Bob Almond
Jim Amash
Sal Amendola
Brad Anderson
Renée Andriani
Vincent Andriani
Bill Angresano
Jesus Antonio
Brian Apthorp
Christophe Arleston
Scott Arnold
Terry Austin
Michael Avolio
Dick Ayers
Barbara Perry Babbitt
Orlando Baez
Mark Bagley
David Baillie
Isabella Bannerman
David Baron
Donna Barr
Eduardo Barreto
Mylene Cyrino Basso
Scott Beachler
Jeremy Bear
Gary Scott Beatty
John Beatty
Howard Beckerman
Kurt A. Belcher
Sandra Bell-Lundy
Carole Bender
Howard Bender
Jack Bender
Tony Bennett
Daniel Best
Franck Biancarelli
Jerry Bingham
Stephen R. Bissette
Patrick Blaine
Laraine Blauvelt
Sergio Bleda
Jon Bogdanove
Craig Boldman
Paul Bonanno
Joyce Borenstein
Malcolm Bourne
Tom Boyko
Wil Branca
Ken Branch
Dan Brereton
Mark Brewer
June Brigman
William F. Brown
Chris Browne
Roger Philbrook Brunke
Frank Brunner
Stan Burdick
Kurt Busiek
Orlando Busino
Craig Butler
Buzz (Aldrin Aw)
Max Cabanes
Russell Calabrese
Mike Carlin
Sergio Cariello
Stefano Casini
John R. "Jack" Cassady
James Cassara
Michael Chabon
Paul Chadwick
Kody Chamberlain
Keith Champagne
Cliff Chiang
Fernanda Chiella
Thomas Chu
Ian Churchill
Matt Clark
Jamie Clark
Sean Clarke
Karl Cohen
Mort Cohen
Dan Collins
Daryll Collins
David Coulson
Jason Craig
Greg Cravens
Terry Cronin
Tony Cronstam
Bill Crowley
Dani Cruz
Doug Cushman
Farel Dalrymple
Bira Dantas
Rufus Dayglo
Nelson Faro DeCastro
Marc Deering
Gene Deitch
Jose Delbo
John Dell
J.M. DeMatteis
Lipe Dias
Jim Di Bartolo
Paul Di Filippo
John R. Dilworth
Jean Pierre Dionnet
Robert Donnelly
Colleen Doran
Roy Doty
Arnold Drake
Mike Dubisch
Michael T. Dugan
Jan Duursema
Kevin Dzuban
Tony Eastman
Josh Eiserike
Hy Eisman
Jan Eliot
Matthew Ellis
Steve Ellis
Judy Emerick
Luis Enciso
Rick Enright
Benita Epstein
Mads Eriksen
Gary Esposito
Andrew Farago
Mark Farmer
Tayo Fatunla
Jonathan D. Feldman
Al Feldstein
Sean Fernald
Retha Ferrell
Gary Fields
Patrick Foster
Dana Fradon
Brian Fray
J. D. Frazer
André Freitas
Neil Gaiman
Sean Galloway
Isac de Menezes Galvao
Phroilan Gardner
Ron Garney
Drew Geraci
Donato Giancola
Anne Gibbons
Brad Gilchrist
Dick Giordano
Thomas F. Gibson
Michael T. Gilbert
Guy Gilchrist
John Gleneicki
Al Gordon
John Graham
Mick Gray
Harvey Green
Sanford Greene
Mike Grell
Peter Gross
Pia Guerra
Jackson Guice
Dave Gutierrez
Paul Gulacy
Brian Jon Haberlin
David Hagen
Bob Hall
Marcus Hamilton
Cully Hamner
Bo Hampton
Asaf Hanuka
Tomer Hanuka
Michael Harnisch
Joseph de Haro
Tony Harris
Sam Hart
Michael Hassett
Steve Haynie
Tom Heintjes
Donald P. Henderson
Matthew Alan Herring
Bruce Higdon
Michael Higgins
Greg Hildebrandt
Ron Hill
Devon Hodges
Jon Hodgson
Brain Holguin
Nicole Hollander
Morry Hollowell
Matt Hollingsworth
William A. Humphrey
Mitch Hyman
Mark Irwin
Geof Isherwood
Audrey Lee James
Laurel Lee James
Bill Janocha
Michael Jantze
James Jean
Andy Jewett
HÃ¥vard S. Johansen
Lynn Johnston
Richard Johnston
Jake Jones
Rob Jones
Steven Philip Jones
Jason Jourdan
Joe Jusko
Tim Kane
Ron Kanfi
Jeffrey Katrencik
Larry Katzman
Jeff Keane
Jim Keefe
Dan Kemp
Dave Kendall
Tom Kerr
Rick Ketcham
Jeffro Kilpatrick
Lovern Kindzierski
Robert Knight
Stefan Kopiñski
Kari Korhonen
Aitor Kortazar
Ray Kosarin
Terry LaBan
Bill LaRocque
Lewis LaRosa
Batton Lash
Paul LeRoy
Mell Lazarus
KyongWon Lee
Norman Lee
Steve Leialoha
Glen Le Lievre
John Paul Leon
Owen Leonard
Jonathan Lethem
Steve Lieber
Jose Luis Garcia Lopez
John Lotshaw
Frank Lovece
Nick Lowe
Jorge Lucas
Javier Lugo
Marc Lumer
John Lustig
Tom Luth
James E. Lyle
Kevin Mack
Dave Manak
Laura Martin
Pat Martin
Thomas Mason
Warren Martineck
Ruben Martinez
MIke Mattesi
Thomas Mauer
Mark Mayerson
Chris McDonnell
Patrick McDonnell
Pat McGreal
Dougie McIntosh
Garry McKee
Bob McLeod
Christian Meesey
Nick Meglin
Jack Mendelsohn
Tom Mertz
Ken Meyer Jr.
Arild Midthun
Tony Miello
Danny Miki
Zach Miller
Andrew Mitchell
Sheldon Mitchell
Donald S. Mitchem II
Jeremy D. Mohler
J. Ira Monroe
Michael H. Moore
Michael Moorcock
Romano Molenaar
Bill Morrison
Scott Morse
Dean Motter
Brian Moyer
Kevin Moyers
Matt Murray
Jon J. Muth
Michael Netzer
Stephan Nilson
Marc Tyler Nobleman
Graham Nolan
Chris Offutt
Jerry Ordway
Tsvika Oren
Tom Orzechowski
John Ostrander
Andy Owens
Mike Pascale
Jose Pardo
W. B. Park
Dan Parsons
Paco Rodriguez Peinado
Lincoln Peirce
Mark Pennington
Jamal Peppers
Don Perlin
Stephen Perry
Michael L. Peters
Scott Peterson
Rina Piccolo
Tom Pinchuk
Jack Pittman
Gisela Pizzatto
Brian Postman
Joe Prado
Frank Quitely
Ron Randall
Masoud Raouf
Derek Raymond
Martin Redmond
Gail Renard
Adam Rex
Roy Richardson
Robin Riggs
Anna Rodriguez
Enrique Carlos Martín Rodríguez
Spain Rodriguez
John Romita
John Romita, Jr.
Alex Ross
Jeremy Ross
Robert Rowe
Alvaro Muñoz de la Rubia
Josef Rubinstein
Trina Robbins
Steve Rolston
Jason Roth
Robert Rowe
Andrew Rubio
Greg Rucka
Ervin Rustemagic
Paul Ryan
Steven Sanchez
Beau Schemery
Nick Schley
Joe Schmidt
Paul E Schultz
Diana Schutz
Gary Schwartz
Damion Scott
Bart Sears
Martha Seidner
Mario Sermoneta
Eric Shanower
Mike Shapiro
Marlin Shoop
Dave Sim
Bill Sienkiewicz
Joanne Murino Silver
Bruce Simon
Joe Simon
David Simons
Louise Simonson
Walter Simonson
Andrew Simpson
Tom Sito
Steve Smallwood
John Smallwood-Garcia
Andy Smith
Beau Smith
Cam Smith
J.D. Smith
Jeff Smith
Tom Smith
Ian Sokoliwski
Taki Soma
Aaron Sowd
Greg Spalenka
Art Spiegelman
J. David Spurlock
Rob Stolzer
Rick Stromoski
Dana Summers
Mark Szorady
Philip Tan
Carl Taylor
Lino Terlati
Greg Theakston
John Totleben
Jim Tournas
Tim Townsend
Noel Tuazon
Albert H. Tudor, Jr.
Koi Turnbull
Colin Turner
Ron Turner
Gabriel Valles
José María Varona
Brian K. Vaughan
Adrian Velez
Sal Velluto
Sam Viviano
Steve Voldseth
Mike Vosburg
William M. Vrscak
Lan Hoang Vu (aka VAL)
David Wade
Ches Wajda
Brian Walker
Mort Walker
Neal Walker
Chris Warner
Liz Wassell
Bill Whitehead
Jim Whiting
Larry White
Malcolm Whyte
Bill Wilkison
Dwight Williams
Kevin L. Williams
P. Williams
Terry 'Wooket' Willis
Charles Paul Wilson III
Phil Wilson
Ilene Winn-Lederer
Barry Windsor-Smith
Walden Wong
Matthew Z. Wood
Michael J. Wood
John Workman
Joe Wos
Dean Yeagle
Craig Yoe
Larry Zelen
Craig Zablo
Mark Zingarelli
Mark Zug
Jeff Zugale
Michael Zulli
David Zweig


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