Lili Marlene: The Soldiers' Song of World War II

Lili Marlene: The Soldiers' Song of World War II

by Liel Leibovitz, Matthew Miller

The dramatic story of an iconic love song, its three creators, and their lives under the Nazis.See more details below


The dramatic story of an iconic love song, its three creators, and their lives under the Nazis.

Editorial Reviews

Atlantic Monthly
“A fascinating story. Lively and well-informed, this book tells it all, with lots of attention to the travails of those involved.”
The Atlantic
“Not even the most iconic of songs necessarily deserves its very own biography, but in the case of that Second World War classic, "Lili Marlene," dear to soldiers and civilians on both sides, there really is a fascinating story to tell. Forged in the crucible of 20th-century German history, a First World War favorite composers, recorded by an ambitious, anti-Nazi singer. Lively and well-informed, this book tells it all, with lots of attention to the travails of those involved. Nazi music had some rousing tunes, but generally the lyrics were rebarbative. Here the sentiments are unobjectionable and universal, just made for a time when the shadow of the barracks gate was bound to heighten romance under lamplight for a world at war.”
Publishers Weekly

In 1941, a German-controlled radio station in Belgrade broadcast a recording that soldiers later referred to affectionately as "Lili Marlene." Leibovitz (Aliya) and Miller (a Columbia School of Journalism student) offer this fascinating history of "one of the world's most recorded tunes," detailing the careers of the artists involved in its creation. The original lyrics, based on Hans Leip's poem "Song of a Young Sentry," were set to music by Norbert Schultze and evoked "every woman left behind at home to wait and worry." Singer Lale Anderson's rendition transfixed soldiers from both sides of the war throughout Europe and North Africa. So potent was the song, it caused unofficial cease-fires when it played nightly. Set against the rise of Nazism, the authors paint chilling portraits of the megalomaniacal Joseph Goebbels and the cruel machinations of German culture boss Hans Hinkel. Despite the Nazis' attempts to censor the words, or the Allies' rewriting the lyrics, the original recording captured the "true essence of the song." "Lili Marlene" was "a reminder of unity, hope, and brotherhood," bringing soldiers to tears and comfort to the women left behind. (Nov.)

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Kirkus Reviews
The story of World War II's accidental megahit, a song surpassingly popular with troops of all stripes. In their unpretentious retelling, Miller and Leibovitz (Aliya: Three Generations of American-Jewish Immigration to Israel, 2005) feature characters arrayed along the continuum of humanity, from dutiful soldiers, Nazis and Allies alike, to brutal bureaucrats, in particular Reich Culture Chamber head Hans Hinkel. Standing guard duty in Berlin in 1915, poet Hans Leip got the idea for a poem about a lonely soldier. Back in his room, he wrote "Song of a Young Sentry," combining the names of his landlady's niece and a girl he'd met at an art gallery to christen the soldier's lover Lili Marlene. Leip put the poem in a drawer, but 20 years later, he found it, revised it and published it. Enter pianist/composer Norbert Schultze, who discovered the poem, set it to music and sent it to cabaret singer Lale Andersen. She recorded it, but its first broadcast was on the same November 1938 evening as Kristallnacht, so not many minds were on music. Then Karl-Heinz Reintgen, head of Soldier's Radio Belgrade, found the recording in 1941 and put it into rotation. From that moment, "Song of a Young Sentry" was a phenomenal success with troops, who waited to hear it-and sing along with it-every night. Referred to by soldiers simply as "Lili Marlene," it was eventually translated into other languages, and people wrote additional lyrics for special occasions. Goebbels despised this sentimental ballad, which he thought weakened the will of Aryan troops, and Nazi leaders did all they could to suppress it, including the attempted rape and confinement of Andersen. British authorities, troubled by the popularity ofa song in German with Nazi connotations, took the simpler expedient of arranging an English-language recording. The multiple versions available on the Internet, including Marlene Dietrich's famous interpretation, attest to the song's enduring appeal. A compelling examination of a simple song's enormous psychological and political power. Agent: Anne Edelstein/Anne Edelstein Literary Agency

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Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Product dimensions:
5.76(w) x 8.38(h) x 0.91(d)

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