Dina Babbitt with a copy of one of the portraits she painted in Auschwitz
January 23, 1923
|Died||July 29, 2009
Felton, California, U.S.
Dina Babbitt (née Gottliebová; January 23, 1923, Brno, Czechoslovakia – July 29, 2009, Felton, California) was an artist and Holocaust survivor. A naturalized U.S. citizen, she resided in Santa Cruz, California.
As Dina Gottliebová, she was imprisoned at Auschwitz during WWII, where she drew portraits of Romani inmates for the infamous Dr. Mengele. Following the liberation of the camp and the end of the war she emigrated to the United States and became an animator. At the time of her death, she had been fighting the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum for the return of her paintings.
She was featured alongside fellow concentration camp survivors and artists Jan Komski and Felix Nussbaum in the 1999 documentary film Eyewitness, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject.
In 1944, while in Auschwitz Concentration Camp, she was chosen by Mengele to draw portraits of Romani inmates. Mengele wished to capture the Romanis' skin coloration better than he could do it with camera and film at that time. Gottliebová agreed if her own mother's life were spared as well. As of 2009, seven watercolors survive, all located in the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.
According to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum's website, seven of her portraits of Romani inmates were discovered after World War II outside the Auschwitz camp in the early 1970s and sold to the Museum by people who apparently did not know that Gottliebova was still alive and living in California as Dina Babbitt. The Museum asked Babbitt to return to the Auschwitz site in 1973 to identify her work. After she did so, she was informed that the Museum would not allow her to take her paintings home. Gottliebová-Babbitt formally requested the return of her paintings. The museum rejected her claims.
The U.S. government became involved with House and Senate resolutions. The House version was authored by Representative Shelley Berkley. The Senate version was co-authored by Senator Barbara Boxer and the former Senator Jesse Helms. Both became part of the Congressional Record in 2003 and passed unanimously.
In collaboration with Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, Neal Adams of the comic-book industry championed Babbitt's efforts. Using text from Medoff, Adams illustrated a six-page graphic documentary about Babbitt that was inked by Joe Kubert and contains an introduction by Stan Lee. Adams called the Babbitt situation "tragic" and "an atrocity". In 2008, Adams, the Wyman Institute and Vanguard Publications publisher J. David Spurlock spearheaded a petition campaign in which over 450 comic book creators and cartoonists urged the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum to return Babbitt's seven portraits. A reprint of the graphic documentary and an account of Babbitt's plight were included in the final issue of the comic X-Men: Magneto Testament.
A group of students from Palo Alto High School, led by teacher David Rapaport, worked to help Babbitt by communicating with officials from the State Department to have the paintings returned, and by writing to individuals in the government. They have written a book about this experience.
She was the second wife of animator Art Babbitt (creator of Goofy). The couple had two daughters, Michele Kane and Karin Babbitt, and three grandchildren, all of whom have been active in pursuing her claims. Gottliebova-Babbitt was diagnosed with an aggressive form of abdominal cancer and had surgery on July 23, 2008. She died one year later, on July 29, 2009, aged 86.
- Press Release of US Congresswoman Shelley Berkley
- "NY Times: Eyewitness". NY Times. Retrieved December 6, 2008.
- "Eyewitness". Seventh Art Releasing. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
- NPR report, npr.org; accessed August 9, 2016.
- "A survivor's artwork, but whose to claim?", iht.com, August 30, 2006.
- Senate resolution in re Gottliebova-Babbitt, House resolution in re Gottliebova-Babbitt Text of the Senate and House resolutions.
- Auschwitz-Birkenau museum's position on issue of portraits made by Dinah Gottliebova-Babbitt, auschwitz.org.pl; accessed August 9, 2016.
- Gustines, George Gene (August 8, 2008). "Comic-Book Idols Rally to Aid a Holocaust Artist". New York Times. New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2016.
- Rafael Medoff, Neal Adams, Joe Kubert and Stan Lee. "Story of Dina Gottliebová-Babbitt" (PDF). Comics for a Cause. Retrieved August 9, 2016.
- Open Letter from Neal Adams & J. David Spurlock for Holocaust Survivor, ComicsBulletin.com, September 24, 2008.
- "X-Men: Magneto Testament #5". Retrieved August 9, 2016.
- "U.S. history class cheers as Holocaust artist bill goes to Obama". Retrieved August 9, 2016.
- Art Babbitt profile, CartoonBrew.com, August 2006.
- Dina Babbitt, Telegraph.co.uk; accessed August 9, 2016.
- Bruce Weber,"Dina Babbitt, Artist at Auschwitz, Is Dead at 86", nytimes.com, August 1, 2009; accessed August 9, 2016.