From the Library: The War Years

in Daily Programme

by Elrik Merlin on Saturday, 20 June, 2009

Today on Radio Riel, we take you back to the years of the Second World War and the songs and melodies that helped to raise the spirits of those both at war and at home.

A fascinating footnote was added to the musical history of the war this week, when James Naughtie of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme interviewed Rudolf Schneider, who was Rommel’s driver in North Africa, and a British veteran of Tobruk, John Riggs, brought together by the historian Rob Lyman, who has written a new history of the eight months siege of the Libyan port. You can read and listen to the item here.

One of the topics of conversation was the song Lili Marlene, which was a big hit among the soldiers on both sides. The song is based on an essentially anti-war poem, written during the First World War by Hans Leip, and there was a great deal of resistance from the Nazis to its being recorded — originally “Lili Marlen”, by “Lale Andersen mit Orchester” on the Electrola label in 1939 — and later broadcast on German forces radio. However the German authorities eventually relented and it went on to become extremely popular on both sides, also being recorded in English by Anne Shelton, Marlene Dietrich and Vera Lynne.

In one of the Radio 4 interviews, Schneider and Riggs recall listening to the song on their field radios: it was played every night when the German-occupied Radio Belgrade closed down at 9:55 pm, and when it played, the fighting often apparently stopped and the soldiers on both sides sang along. You can read more about the song in this Wikipedia article.

Among many other recordings from the period, we will hear the original German and English versions of the song today.

The image, from Wikipedia, shows A Lili Marlene and Lale Andersen memorial in Langeoog.

Today’s programme on Radio Riel is presented by Elrik Merlin, in conjunction with the Alexandrian Free Library Consortium of Second Life. You can tune in now at .

For more information on the Alexandrian Free Library, current exhibits and the work of Consortium members in general, please visit the Alexandrian Free Library website, or one of their branches in-world.


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