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Lawyers urge Auschwitz museum to release paintings

Sixty lawyers signed a petition calling on the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum to return seven pieces of art to the survivor who painted them. Dina Babbitt, who now lives in California, was forced to paint gypsy prisoners in Auschwitz on whom Dr. Josef Mengele, a notorious Nazi war criminal, was conducting experiments. The petition, circulated close to Passover by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust studies, urged the museum to “let her paintings go!” Museum authorities have suggested that the paintings belonged to Mengele, the Wyman Institute said in a statement Thursday. The petition calls the museum’s stance “shocking and offensive,” arguing that “a war criminal does not deserve to enjoy the fruits of his crimes.” The Wyman Institute has rallied for Babbitt before, spearheading petitions that cartoonists, animators and comic book artists from around the world signed, as well as one from art gallery owners, museum officials and prominent artists. The U.S. House of Representatives also passed a motion, under Rep. Shelly Berkley (D-Nev.), urging recognition of Babbitt as the paintings’ rightful owner.