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Lili Marlene

     by Leibovitz, Liel

Lili Marlene

In the early days of Radio Belgrade, records were in short supply and something new was needed for the playlist. The station added a new song to the rotation in August of 1941: Song of a Young Sentry or Lili Marlene as it came to be known. The song proved to be so popular, particularly with soldiers, that the station was flooded with thousands of letters each week, and the station began to play it every evening at 9:57 p.m. just before the 10:00 Nazi programming. It inspired an impassioned response, not only from German soldiers in the field, but also from their wives, families and sweethearts back home. It even reached those on the other side of the conflict, including an American who heard the broadcast via shortwave radio and requested that a greeting be broadcast to a British soldier and a captured British pilot who wanted to have a message broadcast to his pregnant wife among others. This book reveals the magic that this song possessed that caused soldiers on both sides of the battle lines to put aside their weapons for three minutes each night while the song transported them to other places, where sweethearts waited for them underneath the lantern. 

The story of Lili Marlene entwines the lives and talents of three people: Hans Leip, the poet who wrote the lyrics; Norbert Schultze, who wrote the music; and Lale Andersen, the woman whose husky, sensuous voice called to those who listened to her recording, broadcast each night by Radio Belgrade in occupied Yugoslavia. The rise in the song's popularity is described, always within the context of the Nazi regime and the many restrictions of the Culture Chamber. Click here to listen to the song.

Reviewed by mc, 1/09. Other reviews by mc.