Librarian leaves big bequest to UCLA Jewish studies

LOS ANGELES — A Polish-born Jewish woman who worked as a librarian for 32 years has left an unexpected bequest of $592,000 to UCLA for Holocaust and Jewish studies.

Antonina Babb, who died in 1994 at the age of 75, designated UCLA's chairman in Holocaust Studies as the beneficiary of her estate, consisting largely of her house in Santa Monica.

The gift will support not only UCLA's long-standing Holocaust studies program, initiated and endowed by the 1939 Club survivors' organization, but general Jewish studies at the school as well.

The unexpectedness of the bequest is compounded by the scant details available on Babb, a private person who apparently had few friends and no known relatives.

According to UCLA sources, she was born in Poland in 1919, fleeing the country with the Nazi invasion of 1939. Her departure marked the beginning of an odyssey that included a brief refuge in a Catholic convent and that took her through Lithuania, Russia, Japan, China and finally to the United States.

After graduate studies, Babb joined the staff of the UCLA library in 1955 and, until her retirement in 1987, devoted most of her efforts to the Germanic and Scandinavian book collections. In addition to Polish, German and English, she spoke Hebrew, French and Russian.

Babb described herself as a Holocaust survivor, but she apparently never attended lectures or other activities sponsored by UCLA's Center for Jewish Studies or the 1939 Club, said Samuel Goetz, the club's spokesman.

Arnold Band, director of the Center for Jewish Studies, said some of the bequest would be used to present a number of free lectures, and possibly a film series, on 19th- and 20th-century Jewish life in Vienna, Warsaw and other European cities.