From the Library: The War Years

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 http://music.radioriel.org .

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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