When you look at some bizarre connections in History, you cannot escape the fact that life sometimes has a ironic way of weaving a tapestry of coincidences.
One of Hitler’s favourite movies was the Walt Disney classic “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” released in 1937.
One of the main animators of the movie was Art Babbitt. an animator who joined the Disney studio in 1932. He was born to a Jewish family in Omaha, Nebraska.
But that’s not where this tapestry of coincidences,or even fate, stops.
Dina Gottliebová was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia on January 21, 1923 .She was raised by her Mother, Johanna Schawl, a lone parent . Her mother had left Dina’s father when she was only 4 months old.
When Snow white and the Seven dwarfs was released, Dina must have seen the movie at least 7 times.
In 1939, when the Germans invaded her homeland, Dina was living in Prague, where she had enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1942 Dina’s mother received a summons that the Jews were being moved. Dina left school and volunteered to be shipped out with her mother to , Theresienstadt, in Czechoslovakia.
She was actually sent to Theresienstadt on Jan. 21, 1942, her 19th birthday. Dina and her mother stayed there until Sept. 7, 1943 when they were among 5,000 people transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland.
In 1944, while in Auschwitz, Dina was chosen by Mengele to draw portraits of Roma Gypsy prisoners .Mengele wished to capture the Roma’s skin coloration better than he could with camera and film at that time. Dina agreed if her own mother’s life were spared as well,Mengele agreed.
One of the people she painted was called Celine. Dina says of painting her muse back in 1944.
“She was very sad and I said, ‘Are you sick?’” “Celine said, ‘My baby just died.’ It was a 2-month-old baby and she couldn’t get anything to feed the baby and didn’t have any milk. And Celine couldn’t eat anything. We had black bread with something in it—too much bran or something that made people sick—and I said, ‘Well, can I help with something?’ She said, ‘You can get some white bread.’”
Dina asked Mengele for some white bread. He delivered and Dina sneaked it to Celine, but unfortunately Celine did not survive the death camp. (I believe the portrait below is of Celine but I could not verify it, But it is definitely one of Dina’s paintings)
Both Dina and her Mother survived the Holocaust.Dina moved to the US after the war.
However this is not where this tapestry of life stops. There was to be one more twist to Dina’s life. On April 27,1949, Dina married Art Babbitt. The man who was the main animator of the movie she had watched so many times.
Their marriage didn’t last though. They got divorced in 1963. Dina died aged 86 on July 29,2009, in Santa Cruz California
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The Jewish News of Northern California