gypsy.jpgDina Gottliebova Babbitt, who was sent to Auschwitz with her family and fiancé from Czechoslovakia, saved her life in Auschwitz painting for Mengele and SS guards. The portraits she made of doomed gypsies were acquired by the Auschwitz Birkenau Museum and Memorial in the 60’s and 70’s and they want to keep them. The LATIMES today has a long and moving story about this elderly Jewish woman, who now lives in Northern California, has been trying for several decades to get them back. Her case has support from Congress, community leaders, and even hundreds of cartoonists.

In September, about 450 cartoonists and artists from around the world petitioned the museum to make reproductions and give the originals to Babbitt. Signers include Art Spiegelman, creator of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Maus” graphic novels about his family’s Holocaust experience.

You see after she emigrated to America, she worked for Hanna Barbara as a cartoonist!
The artwork of a slave laborer belongs in Auschwitz says the museum, where else can the horror of the place be better illustrated. Babbitt and others say, why not hang copies of the originals in the museum and send the originals to the painter.

Nothing can bring back the gypsies who were sent to the gas chambers, but returning the paintings will help heal the wounds and soul of this survivor. Hello, Your Honorable Polish Ambassador Reiter, do you get it?

Just in case you feel like voicing you opinion, here is the contact page from the Polish Embassy.

About the author

Rabbi Yonah


  • I think she’s entitled to get her artwork back on moral grounds (having in mind that, as a legal matter, the Poles could assert compelling legal defenses). But this isn’t the no-brainer the post implies, still less a nefarious conspiracy by those dastardly Poles to victimize further a Holocaust survivor.

    The Polish government would do well to close the Auschwitz musuem and tell any and all survivors and their heirs to sort through the remaining objects (contingent, perhaps, on releasing the government from liability for drawing attention to what occurred at the camp).

  • Wrote to the Polish Embassy in Washington, DC. Here’s their rather adament apologetics:

    From: “Lance”
    Sent: Thursday, November 30, 2006
    6:43 AM

    Subject: Stolen Jewish Artwork at Auschwitz

    Regarding your Polish death-camp, called Auschwitz, and the art work your people stole from Dina Gottliebova Babbitt, I would like to express that I am not surprised by these acts of theft by your country and its people.

    Poland is a disgrace to decency.

    From: Informacja
    Sent : November 30, 2006 11:05:31 AM
    To: “Lance”

    Subject : Re: Stolen Jewish Artwork at Auschwitz

    Dear Lance,

    I just read this email and I just cannot resist answering it
    immediattely. First of all, Auschwitz was not “our Polish death-camp” as you wrongly suggest. It was a Natzi German labor/death camp, during German occupation of Poland, under total control of the German military. It was only on the territory of in Poland, but that doesn’t make it a Polish death-camp. If you do not realize that, please visit the Holocuast Memorial Museum in Washington DC, or get to know these facts the way they were from
    any other source. These were ( of course not only Aushwitz ) NOT POLISH DEATH CAMPS. THEY WERE GERMAN DEATH CAMPS – these are the facts, there are
    documents that proove it.

    As for the other thing you mention- “the art work your people stole from
    Dina Gottliebova Babbitt”- perhaps Polish people did steal some works of art, as in all nations and in all countries there are the good and the bad ones, but again – stealing Polish or Jewish works of art was a daily routine for war time Germans who occupied Poland and other counrties, too. Perhaps, again – there were not “acts of theft by our country and its people” but
    they only took place in Poland, which was not really “Poland” at that time.

    Last but not least, what do you mean by: “Poland is a disgrace to
    decency”? I think it is not just to pass such a judgement over the whole country. Poland fought a long way to its freedom – for over 123 years (before the World War I) we were not recognized on any map of the world.

    And then during both world wars, as well as in the last decades of the 20th century when it was a part of a Russia-controlled “zone” in Europe. An it finally happened – in 1989 and then, in the early nineties – only then
    Poland started to be a really independent, a really free country.
    Have you ever heard of anything more about Poland than you mention in your email? We are happy to help you find out more.

    You can just go to a couple of websites, such as:\

    or any other place to learn more about Poland and its people. I hope it can help change your mind.

    Information Office

  • Seems to me like a lighter, less aggressive touch is needed when contacting their information office, Lance.

    I find their response to be a fair one to your attack on them. The Poles may have a lot to answer for, and we’ve covered topics like Jedwabne on this site, but the entire issue of the Holocaust, property of victims, obligations of states and individuals who were living under Nazi rule is complex and fragile even 60 years later and can’t be addressed by smashing a hammer over it.

  • Yeah, that response could’ve been a lot worse. They could’ve tied you to a chair and put Gorecki’s Third Symphony on continuous tape loop.

  • Jesus, Lance, get a grip. If you really want the woman to get her paintings back this isn’t the way to do it.

  • Tom, that was funny…except that I actually used to enjoy listening to it. I haven’t heard his work in years, though. I should still have the CD somewhere around here.

  • I *think*, halachicly, those paintings are no longer hers. If she already gave up on finding them, then she can’t claim ownership on them when they’re found. …I think.

  • Just when I thought I couldn’t read a more inane and plain stupid comment from that middle thing; tzipi, a deep thinker indeed, “think[s]” Halacha somehow gives the damn polish garbage a Halachic right, no less, to steal a daughter of Israel’s property.

    I have allowed myself to be debassed at this Web site too many times. To paraphrase a giant of my people, Zeev Jabotinsky, there is something unatural and undignified when Jews adopt the goyish swine’s attitudes.

  • Lance, when you were a wee tyke, your parents must’ve had you innoculated against measles, polio, hepatitis B, tetanus, whooping cough, and nuance.

    Hey Middle– I’ve got that piece, too, truth be told. If you like it– check out Valentin Silvestrov of Ukraine, whom Arvo Part called the greatest composer in post-Soviet Eastern Europe. It’ll remind you of Gorecki, with more subtlety.

  • We didn’t debase you, Lance. You managed it all on your own.

    I think that the Poles should give her her paintings. But your racist vituperativeness is, well, racist. I understand, and share, your feelings regading Auschwitz, but there are limits.

    All gentiles are not “swine” and “garbage”. You need to STFU.

  • Lance, this is the first time Ephraim and I completely agree on something. Well acronymed Ephraim.

    If anyone’s interested in reading the comic book and cartoonists’ petition and who signed it…

    Pretty impressive names from the funny papers to the underground. Great to see Gaiman’s name along with Masoud Raouf.

  • Damn, Lance, they took your bass away? They really was thoughtless of them.

    In case that’s not what you meant, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of room to debase vicious racists who applaud the premeditated murder of defenseless civilians:

    Asher Weisgan did all of Israel a favor. . . . May G-d bless Asher Weisgan and may he regain his freedom very soon!

    Of course, I realize that the beliefs of actual Jews are utterly irrelevant to you and those who share your perspective when you formulate your brilliant theories. Thus, the Democratic Party is a Nazi front organization despite the support of 87% of the Jewish electorate, Reform and Conservative Jews are just another branch of Christianity, etc., etc., etc. Still, you really might want to occasionally consider the fact that in the view of at least 99% of the world’s Jewish population, every time you express your views it’s as though you unrolled a Torah, dropped your pants, and took a big shit on it. The views you express are an unmitigated desecration of the most sacred values Jews hold and try to convey to their children.

  • Lance,

    “Polish” death camp?! POLISH?!

    Whoever it was that “debassed you” was doing humanity a favour.

  • Told by a Polish tour guide in Poland: “We lost our Jewish community to Zionism.” “Um, yeah, that is what happened,”was the comment from my Aunt, who was on the tour.

    While I am not defending Lance, there have been many times when I have faced anti-Jewish statements and behaviors:

    1 – a run in with the KKK in Coleman, WI
    2-47: from a Polish person

    But, at my last job I was supposed to work with a Polish man and I was really nervous, given my experience, but he was a wonderful man. The result, I felt badly for being so nervous and realized I was being prejudice about his prejudice.

    Now I have a headache.

    (That all said, I rant more about how 50% of my spam comes from .pl domain names!!!!)

  • Wow, Lance, I didn’t mean to offend you. But we discussed similar situations in a class I was taking – about items that had been stolen in the Holocaust, whether the original owners should be sought out and whether they belonged to them anymore or should be in a museum. I prefaced it with “I think,” to emphasize that I am not a posek and obviously can’t make a real halachic ruling on anything and didn’t want to offend anyone in that way.

    The ruling we were studying basically said that if someone gives up on finding something, it is no longer theirs, even if someone finds it and it comes to their attention years later. And if you find something valuable, there is a vaguely measurably amount of time you are supposed to wait/look for the original owners depending on how valuable the item is. But after a certain amount of time, items no longer have ownership.

    AND even if I am right (and I’m not saying that I am), the ruling is just the strict letter of the law, while there are many other suggestions along with that rule that basically say “even though the rule says to do this, you should do the right thing and give it back.” I just thought it would be an interesting discussion. I think you’re taking it way too personally.

    Also, I really like how you put racist words in my mouth and referred to me sarcastically as a “deep thinker.” Classy.

    Second of all, the people who have the paintings right now did not steal them from her. And while I do think she should get her paintings back because it would be the right thing to do, I do understand their point that many of the items in the museum had belonged to someone at some point and if each person demanded their items back then there would be no museum.

    One day you might begin to realize that sometimes you need to separate emotions from reason, or at least think for a few seconds before responding to someone. You may not receive the response you are going for. Instead of writing a persuasive, effective letter to the Polish embassy, you wrote an offensive and abrasive diatribe. And nobody wants to listen to that. Maybe if you took a minute to think about the other side of the story, the point of view of the museum, you might be more effective.

  • hi people (and you lance)
    maybe just a small hint to clear our minds.
    1.there is many unpleasant things you can say about poland, but definetly not that concentrations camps were polish
    2.auschwitz is not a polish government subsidiary nor doesn’t belong to polish state (hence – sending emails to polish embassy is pointless)
    3.these paintings were not handed out to the author on the basis of polish government decision but on the basis of recommendation by international auschwitz council
    4. international means consisted of people of many nationalities and faiths and grounds:
    Prof. WÅ‚adyslaw Bartoszewski – chairman, Poland (former inmate)
    Prof. Israel Gutman – vice-chairman, Israel (former inmate)
    Stefan Wilkanowicz – vice-chairman, Poland
    Kazimierz Albin, Poland (former inmate)
    Dr Piotr M. A. Cywiński, Poland
    Prof. Michał Czajkowski, Poland
    Prof. Wacław Długoborski, Poland
    Henryk Flug, Israel (former inmate)
    Prof. Józef Garliński, United Kingdom
    David Harris, USA
    Christoph Heubner
    Dr Stanisław Krajewski, Poland (Union of Jewish Communities in Poland, Chairman)
    Nathan Leipciger, Canada (former inmate)
    Miles Lerman, USA (former inmate)
    Dr Richard Prasquier, France
    Prof. Bohdan Rymaszewski, Poland
    Agnieszka Magdziak-Miszewska, Poland
    Avner Shalev, Israel (chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum)
    Stanisław Stankiewicz, Poland (International Roma Council)
    Kalman Sultanik, USA (senior Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress)
    Prof. Józef Szajna, Poland (former inmate)
    Marian Turski, Poland
    Siegfried Vergin, Germany
    Prof. Jonathan Webber, United Kingdom
    Fred Zeidman, USA (Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial)
    here you have a link to the site:
    and a wise quotation from one of the members: “I regard it … as highly dangerous to replace the originals with copies. We are aware of how widespread the neo-Nazi propaganda is today. It attempts to convince as many people as possible (through means including the skilful manipulation of the Internet) that there were never gas chambers at Auschwitz, and that the Shoah did not take place … We are also aware that young people have less and less knowledge of history, and that it is therefore possible to deceive them with lies that are transparent to the older generation. Nor can we turn our backs on the aggression and hatred of others that are spreading among the young people in many countries. We must therefore take great pains to ensure the authenticity of everything on the Museum grounds.”
    So, to summarize: i’m not trying to convince anyone. just think it over folks (and you lance)

  • I think everyone should be realistic. I am African-American. Am I ever going to get my heritage back? Sometimes you have to be grateful, with what you do get coming out from a “War.” Returning paintings will not heal the wounds of the holocaust. I say consider the paintings the spoils of war, and send her the copies.