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One year ago: Dina Gottliebova Babbitt

July 29, 2010 |  6:00 am

Babbit Dina Gottliebova Babbitt never got her pictures back.

Babbitt, a Holocaust survivor who died one year ago, fought for more than 30 years to retrieve portraits that she was forced to paint of fellow prisoners while she was imprisoned at Auschwitz concentration camp. She credited the paintings, which are kept at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, for saving her life.

A young art student when she was deported to Auschwitz, Babbitt drew a "Snow White" scene on a wall of a children's barracks to help soothe the youngsters. Josef Mengele, the infamous Nazi doctor who performed hideous experiments on prisoners, heard of her talents and ordered her to paint portraits as mementos for his racist theories.

Babbitt said she told Mengele she would rather die if her mother was not also let out of a group of Jews scheduled to be gassed. Her mother was allowed to live. Her father and her fiance died elsewhere in the Holocaust.

After World War II, Babbitt went to Paris and became an assistant to American cartoonist Art Babbitt, one of Disney's "Snow White" animators. They married and moved to Hollywood and later divorced. She worked in animation at various Hollywood studios.

Then, out of the blue in 1973, the Auschwitz museum notified her that it had the paintings.

Despite her long campaign to reclaim the paintings, the museum has insisted that artifacts proving Holocaust history should be in their original setting.

For more, read Dina Gottliebova Babbitt's obituary by The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Dina Gottliebova Babbitt. Credit: Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times