Dina Babbitt

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Dina Babbitt
Dina Babbitt.jpg
Dina Babbitt with a copy of one of the portraits she painted in Auschwitz
Annemarie Dina Gottliebová

(1923-01-21)January 21, 1923
Died July 29, 2009(2009-07-29) (aged 86)
Occupation Artist
Spouse(s) Art Babbitt
Children 2

Annemarie Dina Babbitt (née Gottliebová; January 21, 1923 – July 29, 2009) was an artist and Holocaust survivor. A naturalized U.S. citizen, she resided in Santa Cruz, California.[1]

As Dina Gottliebová, she was imprisoned at Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II, 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.[2][3]

Early Life and War

Annemarie Dina Gottliebová was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia (today the Czech Republic) to a Jewish family. In 1939, when the Germans invaded her homeland, she was living in Prague, where she had gone to study at the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1942, she and her mother, Johanna Gottlieb, were arrested and sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, outside Prague. The following year, they were transferred to Auschwitz.[4]

Auschwitz Paintings

In 1944, while in Auschwitz, the 21 year old Gottliebová was chosen by Mengele to draw portraits of Romani inmates.[5] Mengele wished to capture the Romanis' skin coloration better than he could with camera and film at that time. Gottliebová agreed if her own mother's life were spared as well.[6]

As of 2009, seven watercolors survive, all in the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.[7] According to the 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,[8] but the museum rejected her claims.[9]

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 former Senator Jesse Helms. Both became part of the Congressional Record in 2003 and passed unanimously.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12] Adams called the Babbitt situation "tragic" and "an atrocity".[11]

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.[13] 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.[14]

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.[15]

Personal life

She was the second wife of animator Art Babbitt (creator of Goofy).[16] The couple had two daughters, Michele Kane and Karin Babbitt, and three grandchildren, all of whom have been active in pursuing Gottliebová-Babbitt's claims.[citation needed]

Dina Gottliebová-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, in Felton, California.[17][18]


  1. ^ Press Release Archived 2006-11-30 at the Wayback Machine of US Congresswoman Shelley Berkley
  2. ^ "NY Times: Eyewitness". NY Times. Retrieved December 6, 2008.
  3. ^ "Eyewitness". Seventh Art Releasing. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
  4. ^ 1923: Czech Woman Who Drew Fellow Auschwitz Inmates Is Born, haaretz.com; accessed April 27, 2017
  5. ^ NPR report, npr.org; accessed August 9, 2016.
  6. ^ Friess, Steve (2006-08-30). "History Claims Her Artwork, but She Wants It Back". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  7. ^ "A survivor's artwork, but whose to claim?", iht.com, August 30, 2006.
  8. ^ Senate resolution in re Gottliebova-Babbitt, House resolution in re Gottliebova-Babbitt Text of the Senate and House resolutions.
  9. ^ Auschwitz-Birkenau museum's position on issue of portraits made by Dinah Gottliebova-Babbitt Archived 2011-05-22 at the Wayback Machine, auschwitz.org.pl; accessed August 9, 2016.
  10. ^ Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2003. DIANE Publishing. ISBN 9781428960893.
  11. ^ a b 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.
  12. ^ Rafael Medoff; Neal Adams; Joe Kubert & Stan Lee. "Story of Dina Gottliebová-Babbitt" (PDF). Comics for a Cause. Retrieved August 9, 2016.
  13. ^ Open Letter from Neal Adams & J. David Spurlock for Holocaust Survivor, ComicsBulletin.com, September 24, 2008.
  14. ^ "X-Men: Magneto Testament #5". Retrieved August 9, 2016.
  15. ^ JusticeForDina.com Archived 2011-01-24 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Art Babbitt profile Archived 2007-01-03 at the Wayback Machine, CartoonBrew.com, August 2006.
  17. ^ Dina Babbitt profile, Telegraph.co.uk; accessed August 9, 2016.
  18. ^ Bruce Weber,"Dina Babbitt, Artist at Auschwitz, Is Dead at 86", nytimes.com, August 1, 2009; accessed August 9, 2016.
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