“A couple of times he read from them at dinner parties,” she said in an interview, “but I didn’t understand German then.”
Many years later, though, Simone’s daughter, Lucy, took an interest in the magazines, not just as family mementos but as markers of history. She got a research grant to travel to Germany, where she was able to study more about her grandfather’s history. Simone then spent years searching for a way to expand public awareness of the magazines, one of the few previously undiscovered literary efforts that document the Holocaust in Europe.
This led to the production of a book, “The Underwater Cabaret: The Satirical Resistance of Curt Bloch,” by Gerard Groeneveld, which was published in the Netherlands earlier this year. Soon there will also be a museum exhibition, “‘My Verses Are Like Dynamite.’ Curt Bloch’s Het Onderwater Cabaret,” which is scheduled to open in February at the Jüdisches Museum Berlin.
“Any time that an almost completely unknown work of this caliber comes to the fore, it’s very significant,” said Aubrey Pomerance, a curator of the Berlin museum exhibition. “The overwhelming majority of writings that were created in hiding were destroyed. If they weren’t, they’ve come to the public attention before now. So, it’s tremendously exciting.”
Research by Pomerance and Groeneveld for the exhibition and the book has helped to illuminate many aspects of Bloch’s life, which had not previously drawn much attention. Born in Dortmund, an industrial city in western Germany, Bloch was 22 and working at his first job as a legal secretary when Hitler became the chancellor of Germany in 1933. Antisemitic violence in Bloch’s hometown escalated even before official anti-Jewish measures were instituted.
After a colleague threatened his life that same year, Bloch fled to Amsterdam, where he took a job with a Persian rug importer and dealer. He hoped to find refuge there before escaping further west, but his plans were dashed when the Germans invaded in 1940, the borders closed, and the nightmare expanded to Jews there as well.