November 10, 2008
Dina Babbit: A real world injustice
Auschwitz survivor denied artwork she created in camp by Auschwitz Museum
Dina Gottliebova Babbitt survived two years at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland by painting watercolor portraits for Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death,” who conducted gruesome experiments on the prisoners.
Today Babbit is 85 and living in California.
Some of her artwork did survive the war, and is in the possession of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland. Adams said the museum refuses to give it to her.
“Auschwitz Museum is dedicated to our feelings about the state taking rights — including the lives of people — away from them,” said Neal Adams. “That’s exactly what this is. I don’t read this any other way. And she did these things for Mengele, the Angel of Death, the guy who experimented on human beings. I guess somebody in the world could make excuses for this awful person, but she had to see the stuff. She had to paint some of it. I mean, they handed her a heart that they had just cut out of a guy. She lived in Hell.”
As Adams says, “The Auschwitz Museum could make prints of all this stuff, and, in fact, they have, and they exhibit the prints at times, but they won’t give her the paintings back. What is their problem?”
Adams, who was instrumental in the comic book industry for pushing publishers to return original comic artwork to the artists, decided to exert some pressure of his own.
He enlisted the help of other celebrities in the comic book industry to capture Mrs. Babbitt’s story in a six-page comic-book story illustrated by Adams.
Joe Kubert, a comic books pro since the 1940s, who has drawn everyone from Hawkman to Sergeant Rock, inked part of the book, and it carries an introduction by Stan Lee, the writer who helped create the biggest names in the Marvel comic universe, including the X-Men.
The text was written by Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, who supports Babbit’s cause.
A page of the book is illustrated at right, and thanks to the kind permission of Neal Adams, Chronicle readers can download PDF versions of all six pages at The Chronicle website, http://www.thedalleschronicle.com/.
Adams and Medoff have offered the story to both DC Comics and Marvel Entertainment, but so far have no deal.
He says the museum is blackening its name for no reason, and if it gave the paintings back to Babbit, she would likely loan them to the museum.
At one point, he says, the museum said the paintings were given to them, later changing the story to say they bought them.
“If I buy stolen goods, excuse me, I don’t own them. That’s my tough luck,” he said.
“This is kind of a thing, we’re trying to undo and we will, if I have anything to say about it.