For Dina Babbit, Painter, Holocaust Survivor

Dina_Babbitt photo

[A poem for today, the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht 1938]

Life between Disney & Mengele
– i.M. Dina Babbit (1923-2009)

Born Annemarie Dinah Gottlieb, Brno,
died Dina Babbit, California. In between

a life between Disney & Mengele. Your
first love a prisoner among the terrors at

Theresienstadt, the happiest year of your life.
At Birkenau your Snow White fresco

in the children’s barracks remembered
from that Prague cinema slyly entered

after removing the yellow star. Mengele
loved it for the witch & dwarves he was,

you his dark Princess, he no latent Prince,
the poisoned apple unspeakably his.

A flick of his baton & you’ve survived
Auschwitz, his bought watercolours

under your precise hand fixing faces
his inferior thought thought inferior,

unacknowledged mirrors of his self-disgust.
Between you those quick moments

of intimacy in his lab as he sits,
dispassionate under the quiet dispassion

of your painter’s gaze, coyly letting you
admire the flat round birthmark

only his wife had ever seen while
reminding you of ear tags on stuffed toys.

He laughs. Outside stacks smoke humans.
Such is the power of your art, this

twisted Prince spares your mother
from the chambers when you threaten

to fry yourself on the fence. Witty,
strong & sexy, there’s a scandalous

affair with a black muso in Paris
then Warner Brothers, married to Babbit,

animator on Snow White, princely
cartoonist of your childhood’s dream.

Your drawings work the aspects of yourself
that got you through: Wile E. Coyote,

Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird, crazy favs
of all our early darkroom dreaming,

attend wild Hollywood parties, children,
divorce, repeated face lifts, bawdy jokes

in your eighties, all death & sex & life.
In the end the Museum in Auschwitz

declines your demand to return
your Gypsy portraits. If, in its opinion,

they belong to anyone, it is to the family
of Dr Josef Mengele, SS scientist

death doctor, dwarf.

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~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on November 9, 2013.

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