1st volume, no. 2

Introduction to the content

The first three poems from Bloch’s OWC edition of 30 August 1943 address his beloved sister Helene, who would have celebrated her 20th birthday on that day. Through the underground, he was aware that Helene and their mother Paula were arrested on 5 May 1943, in the Dutch city of Leiden. Eight days later, they were taken to the Westerbork camp, and Bloch also might have learned that they were deported to Poland. However, his loving, hopeful tone indicates that he was not yet aware of their murder in the Sobibór concentration camp on 21 May 1943.

In the first poem, Curt, who is now going by his underground name Cornelis (Co for short) addresses Helene with her own secret name. In In Hello Yvonne! – Yvonne was the hiding name of his sister – he attempts to connect with her through telepathy. While he doesn’t know how she is doing, he hopes that “a good star will protect us all.”

In the second poem, For Leni, Curt describes his special bond with his little sister. They were deeply connected and trusted each other. After their father’s death, Curt took responsibility for Helene. Now, after she has been captured by the Germans, Bloch feels like a “fearful son and brother” and sighs: “I don’t hear from you two anymore.” The poem ends with a wish: “to celebrate your birthday together many more times.”

The title of the third poem, Poland is not yet lost, is a phrase derived from the Polish national anthem (“Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła”) written in 1797 by Jósef Wybicki. Curt Bloch is aware of the atrocities committed by the Nazis in Poland but reassures his mother and sister in the poem: “They will not murder you, even though it seems to be their style.” He hopes for a reunion and a better future.

In the third poem, A Greeting, Curt addresses Helene directly. He expresses his wish to be there for his “little sister” and for her to stay healthy and safe, and promises to search for her after the war has ended.

Bloch’s words To a Lost One are directed to the famous conductor Willem Mengelberg, who cooperated with the Germans during the occupation and performed concerts for leading Nazis. This collaboration earns Bloch’s incredulity and disgust.

In The Elderly Must Knit Socks, Bloch mocks the National Socialist policy that forces elderly World War I veterans to support the war effort. He speaks from the perspective of veterans ordered by Goebbels to work “despite our trembling hands and wobbly heads,” and though we are “nine-tenth corpses” with one foot in the grave. To earn their pensions they knit socks for the soldiers defending the doomed Reich.

The The Bacon Ballad describes the general shortage of food. Bloch complains that meat rations have become “microscopic” and the “host” in his hiding place suggests buying shoes and cooking them to serve as a meal. The hidden “guests” protest against this idea. Eventually, they successfully trade new size 46 shoes for bacon and butter.

In an optimistic finale, Curt Bloch hopes to organize a gala performance of the OWC once the war is over. He plans to rent a theater and invite the statesmen of the Allied forces to the VIP box. From the stage, he will publicly thank them for restoring freedom and justice.