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Joe Kubert, et al on the return of Dina Babbitt’s Art
posted September 13, 2006
from the desk of
Sept. 1, 2006
I don't usually get involved in international controversies. But I am outraged by the refusal of the Polish government to return artwork belonging to a fellow-cartoonist and Auschwitz survivor, Mrs. Dina Babbitt. And I am writing to ask you to join me in protesting this injustice.
Deported to Auschwitz as a teenager, Mrs. Babbitt's life was spared by the infamous war criminal, Dr. Josef Mengele, after he saw a mural of Snow White that she had painted on the wall of the children's barracks to soothe the children in their final hours. He then compelled her to paint portraits of Gypsies upon whom he was performing his barbaric "experiments."
After the war, Mrs. Babbitt relocated to California, where she worked as an animator for Warner Brothers and Jay Ward Productions. Among other things, she illustrated such characters as Wile E. Coyote, Speedy Gonzalez, Cap'n Crunch, Daffy Duck, and Tweety Bird for many years.
Some years ago, unbeknownst to Mrs. Babbitt, eight of the paintings she did at Auschwitz resurfaced and were acquired by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, a Polish government institution on the site of the former death camp. Mrs. Babbitt visited the museum and verified that they are hers (they are even signed "Dina 1944"), but the Poles refused to give them back, claiming they are legally the property of the museum.
Four years ago, when I wrote the book "Yossel," about a teenage cartoonist whose life was spared by the Nazis because they were amused by his drawings, 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.
Together with officials of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, an organization with which I have been active, I have prepared a petition to the Polish authorities. It is intended to be signed specifically by cartoonists, animators, and comic book artists and creators. Adam, Andy, and I are very much hoping that you will join us.
With thanks in advance for your support,
Mr. Piotr Cywinski, Director
Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum
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.
Jim Di Bartolo
Brian Jon Haberlin
Ken Meyer Jr.
Michael L. Peters
John Romita, Jr.