2nd volume, no. 42

Introduction to the content

In The Russian Wall, Curt Bloch describes the situation in East Prussia, where the decimated German Army is about to lose occupied Ukraine. The Germans are no match for the advancing Russian troops, Gauleiter Erich Koch (1896–1986), who rules the area orders an all-out military/civilian effort to construct a defensive barrier, a trench that stretches for hundreds of kilometers. Supposedly this will halt the Red Army’s advance. “Old and young and poor and rich,” come together in towns like “Stallupönen, Ebenrode, and Zollteich” to participate in the effort. Bloch ridicules this futile act, reciting the words of a well-known German proverb that “he who digs a pit for others falls into it himself.”

Ahasverus in These Times is illustrated by a cutout of the Dutch translation of Eugène Sue’s French tale “The Wandering Jew” an 1844 re-telling of an anti-semitic allegory. In this era, Bloch points out that this rendering of the wandering Ahasverus is out of date. Adolf Hitler has ensured that Jews can no longer move freely. Today, they are no longer condemned to wander and are instead confined in hiding to sitting.

The cover of the “Stuttgarter Illustrierte” from May 24, 1944, depicts Final Call refers to a press photo of Gruppenführer Karl Kraft (1893–1965) alongside a senior citizen signing up to serve in the Wehrmacht. Curt Bloch is inspired by this press image to compose rhymes about the very last reserves, suggesting that these infirm oldsters should fight for Adolf Hitler under the motto “practice makes perfect.” The Reich must take what it can get: the leftovers from long-ago wars. Sure, they can still handle a rifle, but can they run away from the enemy?

In A Peek at London Curt Bloch imagines what’s up with the Dutch government in exile there. Dutch Queen Wilhelmina (1880–1962) instructs her secretary to prepare for the journey back home, on which she will be accompanied by Pieter Sjoerds Gerbrandy (1885–1961), Willem Albarda (1877–1957), and Jan van den Tempel (1877–1955), who are also part of the Dutch government in exile. In reality, Wilhelmina did not return to the Netherlands until August 2, 1945, nearly a year after the publication of this poem. Bloch also mentions the disgraced Dirk Jan de Geer who is less cheery about their imminent return. Against the Queen’s wishes, he deserted the government in exile, returning to Holland in 1941 to collaborate with the Nazis. This led to his trial before a special court after the war, where he received a one-year suspended sentence for “damaging the state.”

The “People’s Court” deals with one of the first groups to stand trial for the failed assassination attempt on Adolph Hitler by the resistance within his military. It took place on July 20, 1944. While Hitler suffered only minor injuries from the explosion of a bomb, which was portrayed as an act of God, hundreds of suspects were arrested, and many were executed. On August 7 and 8, 1944, Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben (*1881) and seven other leaders of the German Wehrmacht were sentenced to death by hanging. Curt Bloch places the term “People’s Court” in quotation marks with fierce irony, referring to it in his verses as a “gigantic show trial” staged by Heinrich Himmler (1900–1945). It’s clear “the verdict was written before the trial began.”