Lili Marleen: Wikis


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A "Lili Marleen" and Lale Andersen memorial in Langeoog

"Lili Marleen" (a.k.a. "Lili Marlene", "Lily Marlene", "Lili Marlène" etc.) is a German love song, first recorded by Lale Andersen in 1939, which became popular during World War II. The poem was originally titled "Das Mädchen unter der Laterne" (German for "the girl under the lantern"), but it became famous as "Lili Marleen".



The words were written in 1915 during World War I by Hans Leip (1893-1983), a school teacher from Hamburg who had been conscripted into the Imperial German Army. Leip reportedly combined the names of his girlfriend and another female friend. The poem was later published as "Das Lied eines jungen Soldaten auf der Wacht" ("The Song of a Young Soldier on Guard Duty") in 1937 now with the two last (of five) verses added. It was set to music by Norbert Schultze in 1938. Tommie Connor later wrote English lyrics. It was recorded by Lale Andersen in 1939.

Use by Radio Belgrade

After the occupation of Belgrade in 1941, Radio Belgrade became the German forces' radio station under the name of Soldatensender Belgrad (Soldiers Radio Belgrad). It could be received throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. A lieutenant working at the station who was taking leave in Vienna was asked to collect some records to broadcast. Amongst a pile he obtained from a second hand shop was the little known two year old song "Lili Marleen" sung by Lale Andersen, which up to then had sold only around 700 copies. For lack of other recordings, Radio Belgrade played the song quite frequently. The Nazi government's propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, then ordered it to stop broadcasting the song. Radio Belgrade received many letters from Axis soldiers all over Europe asking them to play "Lili Marleen" again. Goebbels then reluctantly changed his mind and the tune was from then on signing off the broadcast at 9:55 PM.

Its popularity quickly grew. Soldiers stationed around the Mediterranean, including both German Afrika Korps and British Eighth Army troops, regularly tuned in to hear it. Erwin Rommel, the commander of the Afrika Korps, admired the song and asked Radio Belgrade to incorporate it into their broadcasts, which they did. Many Allied soldiers made a point of listening to it at the end of the day. For example, in his memoir Eastern Approaches, Fitzroy Maclean describes the song's effect in the spring of 1942 during the Western Desert Campaign: "Husky, sensuous, nostalgic, sugar-sweet, her voice seemed to reach out to you, as she lingered over the catchy tune, the sickly sentimental words. Belgrade...The continent of Europe seemed a long way away. I wondered when I would see it again and what it would be like by the time we got there." [1] The next year, parachuted into the Yugoslav guerrilla war, "Sometimes at night, before going to sleep, we would turn on our receiving set and listen to Radio Belgrade. For months now, the flower of the Afrika Korps had been languishing behind the barbed wire of Allied prison camps. But still, punctually at ten o'clock, came Lili Marlene singing their special song, with the same unvarying, heart-rending sweetness that we knew so well from the desert. [...] Belgrade was still remote. But, now that we ourselves were in Yugoslavia, it had acquired a new significance for us. It had become our ultimate goal, which Lili Marlene and her nostalgic little tune seemed somehow to symbolise. 'When we get to Belgrade...' we would say. And then we would switch off the wireless a little guiltily, for the Partisans, we knew, were shocked at the strange pleasure we got from listening to the singing of the German woman who was queening it in their capital."[2] In the autumn of 1944, the liberation of Belgrade seemed not far away. "Then, at ten o'clock, loud and clear, Radio Belgrade; Lili Marlene, sweet, insidious, melancholy. 'Not much longer now,' we would say, as we switched it off. It was a stock joke but one that at last began to look like coming true."[3] As the Red Army was advancing on Belgrade, he reflected again on the song. "At Valjevo, as at so many other places, in the desert, in Bosnia, in Italy, Dalmatia, and Serbia, we would tune our wireless sets in the evening to Radio Belgrade, and night after night, always at the same time, would come, throbbing lingeringly over the ether, the cheap, sugary and almost painfully nostalgic melody, the sex-laden, intimate, heart-rending accents of Lili Marlene. 'Not gone yet,' we would say to each other. 'I wonder if we'll find her when we get there.' Then one evening at the accustomed time there was silence. 'Gone away,' we said."[4]

Allied soldiers in Italy later adapted the tune to their own lyrics, creating the D-Day Dodgers song. A cartoon by Bill Mauldin in the American army newspaper Stars and Stripes shows two soldiers in a foxhole, one playing a harmonica, while the other comments, "The krauts ain't following ya too good on 'Lili Marlene' tonight, Joe. Think somethin' happened to their tenor?"


First recording of Lili Marlen, 2. August 1939, Electrola Studio, Berlin. Label of one of the different variants that appeared during the war. The oldest label shows that the original song title was first called "Song of a Young Sentry".

The specialty label Bear Family has released a 7-CD box set featuring 195 different versions of the song.

The earliest English language recording of the song was probably Anne Shelton's, but a number of cover versions followed. A version called "The D-Day Dodgers" was sung by the Canadian Army remaining in Italy once the Normandy invasion had begun in 1944. A recording was made by Perry Como on 27 June 1944 and issued by RCA Victor Records as a 78rpm record (catalog number 20-1592-A) with the flip side "First Class Private Mary Brown". This recording was later reissued as catalog number 20-2824-A with flip side "I Love You Truly". The song reached chart position #13 on the United States charts. The song was recorded during the musicians' strike and consequently has a backing chorus instead of an orchestral backup. In the late 1940s and early 1950s "Lili Marleen" was recorded in English, as well as German, by Marlene Dietrich. A version with French words by Henri Lemarchand was recorded by Suzy Solidor in 1941.[5]

Other artists who covered the song included Hildegarde (on Decca) and Martha Tilton (on Coral). Al Martino revived the song for Capitol Records in 1968. Another very melodic version was recorded in the 1960s by country music legend Hank Snow. French singer and disco queen Amanda Lear recorded a German/English language version of the song for her 1978 album Never Trust a Pretty Face, making it a repertoire standard. She re-recorded the track for album Cadavrexquis in 1993 and most recently for 2001's Heart with updated German language lyrics by original composer Norbert Schultze, this version was released shortly before his death. Another French singer, Patricia Kaas used "Lili Marlene" as an intro for her song "D'Allemagne" and sang the entire song during concerts in the 1990s. Matia Bazar (Italy) recorded an uptempo beat song called Lili Marleen on the 1982's album Berlino, Parigi, Londra the song is a "spoken words" very early 80's dance track. Spanish group Olé Olé, led by Marta Sánchez, released a song about the film in 1987. It became one of the best selling singles in Spain of the 80s, and paved way for the singer to have a constant successful career until the current day. German blackmetal band Eisregen recorded a version of "Lili Marlene" on the album Hexenhaus. The german Gothic metal/Industrial metal band Atrocity released the song in both languages (English & German) on Gemini: on the blue edition was the German version, and on the red edition was the English version[6]. Kid Creole and the Coconuts included an uptempo, disco-influenced version of "Lili Marlene", with German lyrics sung by Coconut Adriana Kaegi, on their 1980 debut LP release "Off The Coast Of Me". Carly Simon recorded the song as the third track on her 1997 Arista CD Film Noir. Most recently it was covered by Neil Hannon of the Irish pop group The Divine Comedy as a B-side to the 2006 single "A Lady Of A Certain Age". A haunting, slow-tempo instrumental version can be found on the compilation LP Vienna: City of Dreams by Austrian zither master Anton Karas.

"Lili Marlene" has been adopted as the regimental slow march by the Special Air Service, Special Air Service Regiment and Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

In 1980, Rainer Werner Fassbinder directed the film Lili Marleen, the story of Lale Andersen and her version of the song.

Estonian punk rock band Vennaskond released an Estonian version of the song on their album Usk. Lootus. Armastus. in 1993.[7]



Original German lyrics

Lili Marleen

Vor der Kaserne,
Vor dem großen Tor,
Stand eine Laterne
Und steht sie noch davor.
So woll'n wir uns da wiederseh'n,
Bei der Laterne woll'n wir steh'n,
Wie einst, Lili Marleen.

Unsere beiden Schatten
Sah'n wie einer aus,
Daß wir so lieb uns hatten,
Daß sah man gleich daraus.
Und alle Leute soll'n es seh'n,
Wenn wir bei der Laterne steh'n,
Wie einst, Lili Marleen.

Schon rief der Posten:
Sie blasen Zapfenstreich,
Es kann drei Tage kosten!
Kamerad, ich komm' ja gleich.
Da sagten wir Aufwiederseh'n.
Wie gerne wollt' ich mit dir geh'n,
Mit dir, Lili Marleen!

Deine Schritte kennt sie,
Deinen schönen Gang.
Alle Abend brennt sie,
Da mich vergaß sie lang.
Und sollte mir ein Leid gescheh'n,
Wer wird bei der Laterne steh'n,
Mit dir, Lili Marleen!

Aus dem stillen Raume,
Aus der Erde Grund,
Hebt mich wie im Traume
Dein verliebter Mund.
Wenn sich die späten Nebel dreh'n,
Werd' dich bei der Laterne steh'n
Wie eins, Lili Marleen!

Literal English translation

Lili Marleen

In front of the barracks,
In front of the main gate,
Stood a lamppost,
It is still standing out front,
So we want to see each other there again,
If we stand by the lamppost,
As before, Lili Marleen,
As before, Lili Marleen.

Our two shadows
Looked like one,
That we held each other so fondly
Someone would think we were one.
And everybody will see it
If we stand by the lamppost,
As before, Lili Marleen,
As before, Lili Marleen.

Already the guard was crying,
“They’re blowing taps.
That could cost you three days.”
“Comrade, I’m coming right away.”
There we said farewell,
But I would rather have gone with you,
With you, Lili Marleen,
With you, Lili Marleen.

She knows your footsteps,
Your special stride.
Every evening she is burning,
Though she forgot me long ago.
And if a mishap should befall me,
Who would stand by the lamppost,
With you, Lili Marleen,
With you, Lili Marleen?

From out of silent space,
From out the lands of Earth,
Your beloved lips uplift me
As if in a dream.
When the nocturnal mists swirl,
I will be standing by the lamppost,
As before, Lili Marleen,
As before, Lili Marleen.

English lyrics (Connor)

Lily of the Lamplight

By Tommie Connor, 1944

Underneath the lantern,
By the barrack gate
Darling I remember
The way you used to wait
T'was there that you whispered tenderly,
That you loved me,
You'd always be,
My Lilli of the Lamplight,
My own Lilli Marlene

Time would come for roll call,
Time for us to part,
Darling I'd caress you
And press you to my heart,
And there 'neath that far-off lantern light,
I'd hold you tight,
We'd kiss good night,
My Lilli of the Lamplight,
My own Lilli Marlene

Orders came for sailing,
Somewhere over there
All confined to barracks
was more than I could bear
I knew you were waiting in the street
I heard your feet,
But could not meet,
My Lilly of the Lamplight,
my own Lilly Marlene

Resting in our billets,
Just behind the lines
Even tho' we're parted,
Your lips are close to mine
You wait where that lantern softly gleams,
Your sweet face seems
To haunt my dreams
My Lilly of the Lamplight,
My own Lilly Marlene

English lyrics (Goring)

Alternative English lyrics were written by Marius Goring. Goring was English, involved in British broadcasts to Germany during the war and he had a distinguished career in acting, radio and TV post-war (changing his working name to Richardson).

In the dark of evening
where you stand and wait
Hangs a lantern gleaming
by the barrack gate.
We’ll meet again by lantern shine
as we did once upon a time
We two Lili Marlene
We two Lili Marlene

Our shadows once stood facing
a tall one and a small
They mingled in embracing
upon the lighted wall
And passers by could see and tell
who kissed my shadow there so well
My girl Lili Marlene
My girl Lili Marlene


  1. ^ Part 2, ch 3 "Outward Bound"
  2. ^ Part III, ch 3 Orientation
  3. ^ Ch 12 Ratweek
  4. ^ Part 3, ch 13 "Grand Finale" in Eastern Approaches by Fitzroy Maclean, 1949
  5. ^ Pathé: Discography
  6. ^ Atrocity ~ Gemini on
  7. ^ "Vennaskond". Atmosphere Music. Retrieved 08 December 2009. 

Further reading

  • Andersen, Lale (1981). Leben mit einem Lied. Munich ISBN 3-423-01003-7
  • Leibovitz, Liel (2009). Lili Marlene: The Soldiers' Song of World War II. New York, NY: Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-06584-8
  • Schultze, Norbert (1995). Mit dir, Lili Marleen. ISBN 3-254-00206-7
  • Wilson, Patrick Maitland (2002). Where the Nazis Came. ISBN 1-904244-23-8


  • Lili Marleen an allen Fronten (Lili Marleen on all fronts). Hambergen, Germany: Bear Family Records, 2006. 7 CDs with 180-page booklet, ISBN 3-89916-154-8 (Includes nearly 200 versions of Lili Marleen).

External links


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