Collage in gray-blue on an orange background with a blue zigzag line: the head of a man in a diving bell, his hand holding a hose, next to it a manometer.

“My Verses are Like Dynamite”

Curt Blochʼs Het Onderwater Cabaret – Exhibition

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)

Over a period of more than 19 months between August 1943 and April 1945, the hitherto unknown German Jewish author Curt Bloch produced a unique work of creative resistance while in hiding in the Netherlands: Het Onderwater Cabaret.

9 Feb to 26 May 2024

Map with all buildings that belong to the Jewish Museum Berlin. The Libeskind building is marked in green

Where

Libeskind Building, ground level, Eric F. Ross Gallery
Lindenstraße 9–14, 10969 Berlin

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. 
 

Front cover of Het Onderwater Cabaret magazine, issue dated 30 August 1943, showing a collage of the sea and the head of a man who appears to be a diver.

Het Onderwater Cabaret 30 Aug 1943; Jewish Museum Berlin, Convolute/816, Curt Bloch collection, loaned by the Charities Aid Foundation America thanks to the generous support of Curt Blochʼs family

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. 
 

Front cover of the magazine Het Onderwater Cabaret, issue dated 3 April 1945, with a red and blue collage of a man emerging from a hatch, holding it open for another man to follow him out.

Het Onderwater Cabaret 3 Apr 1945; Jewish Museum Berlin, Convolute/816, Curt Bloch collection, loaned by the Charities Aid Foundation America thanks to the generous support of Curt Blochʼs family

Exhibition Information at a Glance

  • When 9 Feb to 26 May 2024
  • Entry fee Free of charge
  • Where Libeskind Building, ground level, Eric F. Ross Gallery
    Lindenstraße 9–14, 10969 Berlin
    See Location on Map
Collage in gray-blue on an orange background with a blue zigzag line: the head of a man in a diving bell, his hand holding a hose, next to it a manometer.

Exhibition “My Verses are Like Dynamite” Curt Bloch’s Het Onderwater Cabaret: Features & Programs

Exhibition Webpage
Current page: “My Verses are Like Dynamite” Curt Bloch’s Het Onderwater Cabaret: 9 Feb to 26 May 2024
Accompanying Events
Tour of the Exhibition “My Verses are Like Dynamite” Curt Bloch’s Het Onderwater Cabaret: Dates by arrangement (from 9 Feb to 26 May 2024)
Exhibition Opening: 8 Feb 2024
Curator Tour for FRIENDS OF THE JMB: 8 Apr 2024, in German
Joodse Vluchtelingen: The Fate of German-Jewish Émigrés in the Netherlands: 3 Mar 2024, in German
Archival Objects of German Jews in the Netherlands: Show & tell for FRIENDS OF THE JMB, 7 Mar 2024, in German
Het Onderwater Cabaret Live. An evening of music and poetry: 11 Apr 2024, in German
Hidden in Enschede: Conversation with Contemporary Witness Herbert Zwartz: 16 Apr 2024, in German
Publications
JMB Journal 26: Het Onderwater Cabaret: Special edition on the occasion of the exhibition
Digital Content
OWC Online Feature: A Glimpse Behind the Scenes of the Exhibition
Life and Work of Curt Bloch: Essay with biographical insights, JMB Journal 26
On the Piano of My Fantasy – Video with Marina Frenk, Richard Gonlag, and Mathias Schäfer, in German, Dutch and German Sign Language
“It’s Complicated”: A text by Simone Bloch, daughter of Curt Bloch
“Ik neurie mee ’t propellerlied…”: Essay on Het Onderwater-Cabaret: A Testament to Political Resistance in the Occupied Netherlands, 1943–45
Clandestine Literature in the Netherlands 1940–1945: Essay, JMB Journal 26
All Audio Pieces of the Exhibition with Transcriptions and Translations
All issues of Het Onderwarter-Cabaret: All 95 issues to browse
See also
Survivors in Hiding (National Socialism)
To the Web Project www.curt-bloch.com

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