Operation "Lili"

"Die Kleine Hofenorgel"

    During World War One, Hans Liep then a German soldier wrote "The Song of a Young Sentry". The young poet found himself very lovesick being at the Russian front. As he stood on guard duty, he would dream of his girlfriend "Lili" back home and how he would one day return to her. It was that girl, that the most famous song of the mid 20th century would be dedicated to. The poem itself wouldn't be published until 1937 in his book entitled "Die Kleine Hofengel" - A Little Harbour Organ.

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

Unsere beide Schatten
Sah'n wie einer aus
Daß wir so lieb uns hatten
Das 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
Das kann drei Tage kosten
Kam'rad, ich komm sogleich
Da sagten wir auf Wiedersehen
Wie gerne wollt ich mit dir geh'n
|: Mit dir Lili Marleen. :|

Deine Schritte kennt sie,
Deinen zieren Gang
Alle Abend brennt sie,
Doch mich vergaß sie lang
Und sollte mir ein Leids gescheh'n
Wer wird bei der Laterne stehen
|: 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 drehn
Werd' ich bei der Laterne steh'n
|: Wie einst Lili Marleen. :|
At the barracks compound,
By the entry way
There a lantern I found
And if it stands today
Then we'll see each other again
Near that old lantern we'll remain
As once Lili Marleen.

Both our shadows meeting,
Melding into one
Our love was not fleeting
And plain to everyone,
Then all the people shall behold
When we stand by that lantern old
As once Lili Marleen.

Then the guard to me says:
"There's tap call, let's go.
This could cost you three days."
"Be there in half a mo'."
So that was when we said farewell,
Tho' with you I would rather dwell,
With you, Lili Marleen.

Well she knows your foot steps,
Your own determined gait.
Ev'ry evening waiting,
Me? A mem'ry of late.
Should something e'er happen to me,
Who will under the lantern be,
With you Lili Marleen?

From my quiet existence,
From this earthly pale,
Like a dream you free me,
With your lips so hale.
Whene'er the evening fogs do turn,
To that lantern I will return,
As once Lili Marleen.

"The Girl Under the Lantern"

    In 1935, in the smoke filled dens of the Munich Cabarets, a young singer who went by the stage name of Liselott Wilke, was slowly becoming a hit. In their nightly set, she and her composer pianist, Rudolf Zink, would wow the locals with their song "The Girl Under Yhe Lantern". But it wasn't to become famous for another 4 years, until the Nazi regime would make it popular.

    It was in 1938 that this young "Kabarettistin", now going by her real name of Lale Anderson, met Norbert Schultze, a German-born composer of some talent. He was already famous for his films and marches, and was well liked by the Nazi Party. Together they would rework the song and publish 5,000 copies a year later, in 1939. But the song was far from being a hit as only 700 copies were initially sold.


"Lili Marleen"

    On August 18, 1941 that all changed. Karl-Heinz Reintgen, the German officer in charge of the Nazi propaganda radio station in Belgrade, had found a copy of Norbet Schultze's record sitting in a storage box in the basement. Well, that night he played it. The song was broadcast over the air to the Axis troops, from Russia to North Africa. Erwin Rommel, Field Marshall of the Afrika Korps,  liked it so much, he had asked for the song to be played again.
    Back in Germany, propaganda minister Jospeh Gobbels was not amused. He had already forbidden Lale from singing, because of her connection with her Jewish friends and now he would outright ban the song from being broadcast any longer. Gobbels would have to bite his tongue as cards and letters streamed in to the radio station, by servicemen who wanted to hear that "Lili Marleen" song. The propaganda minister would allow Lale to tour the country, singing the song about the "girl under the light post", from concert halls to military bases. His anger wasn't any less, when across the front, the enemy was starting to whistle the song as often as the Germans. In Belgrade, "Lili Marleen" was to become the signature of Karl Reintgen broadcast, as he played it at 9:55 pm. every night, as his shows sign-off song.


     The Allied 8th army in Africa enjoyed listening to "Lili Marleen" from the German broadcasts and quickly adopted the song as one of their own.
The British songwriter Tommie Connor soon had an English version of the song, after his publisher J.J. Phillips claimed the fighting men had no English version by which to sing. Singer Anne Sheldon next recorded the song and the album went on to be a huge success, which started the songs popularity with the Allied countries. The BBC started broadcasting it using the voice of the "Armed Forces Sweetheart" -Vera Lynn.

    But "Lili Marleen" wouldn't become overwhelmingly popular until Marlene Dietrich got a hold of it. She had fled Europe and come to America to escape the Nazi's and now the German born actress-singer felt the obligation to do her part in the war against Hitler. She joined the USO shows and for three long years helped to pick up moral within the Allied troops. She went on to receive medals from the US, French and Israeli governments for her bravery. Her version of "Lili Marleen" became the most popular and would end up accompanying her for the rest of her singing career. She often times added this verse to her ever popular version.

...When we are marching in the mud and cold,
And when my pack seems more than I can hold,
My love for you renews my might,
I'm warm again, My pack is light,
It's you Lili Marlene,
It's you Lili Marlene...
    Since that night back in Aug. 1941, the song filled the hearts of the fighting men on both sides of the war. Throughout the years, after the war had passed, the song went on to be re-recorded numerous times, in many different languages. It is still revered as being the most famous World War 2 song to this date.

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