Vielleicht kommen euch die Gedichte,
Die ich in eurer Sprache schrieb
In spätren Zeiten zu Gesichte
Und täten sie’s, wär mir’s recht lieb.
Perhaps at some point in the future,
the poems in your tongue I composed,
will be brought to your notice,
and if so, to delight will I then be disposed.
(Transl. by Aubrey Pomerance)
Week for week, Bloch put together a small format booklet comprising of handwritten poems in both Dutch and German which confronted Nazi propaganda and addressed a wide variety of themes: the course of the war, the lies and crimes of the National Socialists and their collaborators, his situation in hiding and the fate of his family, the approaching downfall and defeat of the Axis forces, and the fate of the German people.
Through caustic satire and sardonic wit, Bloch mocked and ridiculed all of the major fascist leaders, from Hitler, Goebbels and Göring, to Mussolini and Seyß-Inquart, Reich commissioner of the Netherlands, alongside a host of their subordinates and henchmen, while always remaining acutely conscious of the enormity of their atrocities.
Some eight decades since the creation of the work and nearly fifty years after his death, Curt Bloch’s hope is now finally being fulfilled:
The exhibition presents all 95 original issues of the Het Onderwater Cabaret, accompanied by insight into the production of their covers, which Bloch adorned with photomontages put together using materials from newspapers and magazines at his disposal. Audio readings of selected poems and a video performance staged by the actors Marina Frenk, Richard Gonlag and Mathias Schäfer bring Bloch’s verses to life.
Alongside the display of additional works written by Bloch while “under water”, his helpers and those who were with him in hiding are introduced, accompanied by eyewitness interviews. The entire Het Onderwater Cabaret is accessible in digital form, accompanied by transcriptions.
Bloch’s works, known to only a handful of people at the time of their composition, will now find the recognition and appreciation they so greatly deserve.
In today’s world, in which war, disinformation, discrimination, exclusion and persecution are widespread, they remain highly pertinent.