Tuesday, September 15, 2009

by Liel Leibovitz and Matthew Miller

Every night, at 9:57, a sentimental song was played on Radio Belgrade, a German military station.
It was World War II and both the Axis and Allied soldiers were totally captivated by this sweet melody. The Minister of Culture and Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, banned the music from the airwaves saying that the men should be listening to spirited marches instead, while the BBC felt that the soldiers were becoming sympathetic to the enemy.
"Lili Marlene" would become the most recorded tune in the world and would garner much success to the three people who brought it to life.
Hans Leip was the lyricist. He started out being a teacher, but really preferred to write and was known, originally, as a poet. When he wrote the words as a love poem, he never intended for it to become public.
Norbert Schultze, the composer, was a pianist for a group that did quite well playing at a cabaret in Berlin. He then became a solo artist and wrote operas and soundtracks. In order to stay out of the war and not have to fight, he composed military music for Hitler's invasions.
Lale Andersen (not her real name) became the singer who introduced the song to the troops. Her voice, which was considered harsh, still mesmerized those that heard it at the end of a long day of fighting.
Lili Marlene is one terrific read. It's jam-packed with details. The two authors did a tremendous job sifting through all the documentation.
Black-and-white photographs and sketches are found in the first half of the book.
Highly recommended.