Sunday, August 17, 2008

3 Real Life Heroes

Comic book legends Neal Adams, Jack Kubert and Stan Lee have teamed in an effort to do what their creations are known for... to right a wrong. The only difference is this is not fiction.

Dina Gottliebova Babbitt is an 85 year old woman who survived Auschwitz due to her artistic talents. Sent to the camp at the age of 19, Ms. Gottliebova [she was not yet married] came to the attention of the infamous Nazi, Josef Mengele, after she painted a mural of Snow White in an effort to raise the spirits of young children being held there. When she was taken to meet Mengele, Ms. Gottliebova believed that he was about to order her execution. Instead he told her he wanted her to paint portraits of the gypsies he used in his experiments. She would also paint portraits of Nazi officers and their families and even Mengele himself. Ms. Gottliebova summoned up her courage and said that if her mother would be spared the gas chamber, she would agree to his demands. Her mother was spared and Ms. Gottliebova created the artwork. Ms. Gottliebova and her mother both survived until the camp was liberated.

After the war, Ms. Gottliebova met Arthur Babbitt, an American, who made his living as a cartoon animator. Coincidentally, he worked on the classic "Snow White!" Ms. Gottliebova became Mrs. Babbitt and moved to the United States where she became employed as a cartoon animator for Warner Bros., MGM and Jay Ward Productions. In 1973, Ms. Babbitt was contacted by officials at the Auschwitz State Museum. They had several of her portraits on display and wanted her to verify that she had created them. At her own expense she traveled to Poland and confirmed that they were hers. Ms. Babbitt believed the museum would give her the originals and keep prints for display... but that wasn't to be.

To this day the museum continues to refuse to return her paintings to her. Over the years she has been given a number of excuses: the education value of the paintings outweighs her rights to them [despite the fact the high quality prints are usually on display instead of the originals], that returning her paintings might encourage other survivors to take back their objects on display [somehow this logic gives trump to the museum's rights over the true owners], and even that the paintings were the legal property of Josef Mengele [despite receiving letters from over four dozen lawyers calling the claim "preposterous and offensive" and pointing out "a war criminal does not deserve to enjoy the fruits of his crime."

The paintings still have not been returned to Ms. Babbitt. So Neal Adams, Joe Kubert and Stan Lee teamed up to create a six page summary of her story that was printed in the New York Times. They are attempting to get the word out to the world. You can view all six pages of the strip by following this link to the Times article. The “Multimedia” box in the left hand column of the Times page will take you to the story. After you've read it, if you're so inclined you can send an email to the Museum director personally expressing your feelings.

Mr. Piotr Cywinski, Director
Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum
Oswiecim, Poland

It's nice to know that Neal Adams, Joe Kubert and Stan Lee don't just create heroes -- they are heroes.


Craig Zablo said...

The following is an e-mail I sent to the Auschwitz Museum Director. Please send an e-mail if you feel strongly about the issue. It doesn't have to be long -- just ask them to return the art. Individual e-mails work best, especially when they are all different. It shows that people care.


from: Craig Zablo
Subject: A Plea for Justice

Dear Sir,

Your museum is there to remind the world of the injustices caused by those in power over the powerless. Despite all of the excuses and reasons given by the leaders of the Nazi party to justify the evil things that they did, your museum reminds us that there is no excuse to take away the rights of others, to deprive them of their dignity, their property or their lives. I hope that that your museum is there forever and that there is never need to create another.

With all of that said, I ask that you do whatever is in your power to right a wrong being carried out by your museum. Currently in the museum's possession are works of art created by a nineteen your old who was housed at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Dina Gottliebova Babbitt was forced to create paintings for Dr. Mengele in exchange for the life of her mother. I am sure you know her story and her art. No amount of justification can be made to keep her artwork out of her hands. She created it and it should be hers. To say otherwise, to search for excuses, to try to find justification to keep it is to follow the example of the Nazis when they deprived people of their rights. High quality reproductions of her artwork would serve the same purpose as the originals.

Ms. Babbitt is 85 years old. Hasn't she been through enough? Please do the right thing and return her artwork to her. To do less is ethically, morally and legally wrong and no amount of justification can make it otherwise.


Craig Zablo

Rob Smith, Jr. said...

Gee whiz, that's a nice illustration by Adams!