Sachsenhausen concentration camp, 1940
Lyrics by: Aleksander Kulisiewicz
Music by: H. Wars (“Czarny Jim,” 1939)
Performed by Aleksander Kulisiewicz
British prime minister Churchill (center) and foreign secretary Eden host the signing of a pact between the Soviet Union, represented by Soviet ambassador Maisky, and the Polish government-in-exile, represented by General Sikorski. London, Great Britain, July 30, 1941.
Imperial War Museum, Photograph Archive
The subject of this song is Winston Churchill, the cigar-chomping British prime minister who between the fall of France and the United States' entry into World War II personified captive Europe's last hope for defeating the Germans. Written soon after news reached Sachsenhausen of the Allied evacuation from Dunkirk in May 1940, “Mister C” debuted at an informal musical evening in Cell Block 3 where, to cite Kulisiewicz, “the most biting and obscene antifascist satires were performed in several languages.” Kulisiewicz further recalls that he would pantomime rowing gestures and whisper “Dunkirk” when performing the last verse of the song. The coded phrase “Eastern Wind,” also in the final verse, alludes to possible aid from the Soviet Union, despite the Hitler-Stalin nonaggression treaty then still in effect. Kulisiewicz's reference in verse 4 to the “Isle of Rugia”—the German Baltic island Rügen—evokes an ancient clash of Slavic and German interests over this borderland territory.