Love Poem goes War Anthem

Lili Marlene, or Lili Marleen in German, is a song with a rich history. It was written as a silly love poem, and it had some success when it was put to music. The song was turned into a propaganda tool by the Nazis, only to be welcomed as an escape from the horrors of war by both German and allied soldiers. There are many lessons to be learned from a song like this, especially during the current times when the divisions between people only seem bigger and bigger.

Silly Love Poem

Hans Leip wrote the poem’ “Vor der Kaserne vor dem grossen Tor stand eine Laterne” (“Underneath the lantern by the barrack gate”)’ in 1914 or 1915 while standing guard duty underneath a lamppost. The poem is a simple love story about a girl waiting for her lover underneath a lantern.
The name ‘Lili Marlene’ is a composite of two women: A Lili and a Marlene. The first one was his girlfriend, while Marlene was a nurse he knew. In 1938 it was put to music by Norbert Schultze. It didn’t attract much love from the general public until 1941 when it was played on the radio for the allied troops in Africa.


The propaganda secretary of the Nationalist-Socialist party, Joseph Goebbels didn’t like the song. Erwin Rommel, commander of the Afrika Korps, did enjoy the song and asked Radio Belgrade to incorporate it into their broadcasts. Finally, Goebbels gave in to the numerous protests, and the song was played every evening to sign-off the broadcast at 9:55 PM.
The song was even called the unofficial war-anthem of the Second World War.

Marlene Dietrich recorded an English version of the song. She performed it both during the war for the allied troops as many times in the years after that.


So what lessons can we learn from this song?

The most apparent lesson, one that tends to be forgotten: art is important. Especially during times of crisis, people turn to art for comfort, relief, and distraction. They read more books, listen to music and try to find entertainment in other parts of life than the news and the world outside. This is an important lesson that is all too easily overlooked.

The Importance of Music

In the same vein: music is important.
It’s not just a nice distraction to listen to. Music can influence your mood, make you feel better, or sometimes sad, which is essential in life. Can you imagine what it would have been like, while bombs are falling all around you, to have a moment of reprieve every night and you just listen to a sappy love-song? Don’t you think that would have given you hope that one day the world would become normal again? That soon you too, would be able to go back home to the girl you love?

We’re All Humans

Another important lesson, maybe the most important one of all is that we’re not that different. The song was loved equally by German and allied soldiers. They were all in the army, during the day they would fight each other, but in private they enjoyed the same song.

Never Forget

We should learn from our past. We have fought wars many times, and numerous innocent lives have been wasted because of it. Even during the time of war, soldiers found solace in a work of art, in a song that spoke to everyone at that time.
Let’s not forget the power of art, the force of music and most of all, that deep down, we’re not that different. We may speak different languages or look different, but we’re still people. We’ve all got our crosses to bear.

Links that were used in this post:

The Song

Marlene Dietrich – Lili Marlene – English
Omnia – Lili Marlene Live at Castlefest 2011

The Poem


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 beiden 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 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 drehn
werd’ ich bei der Laterne steh’n
wie einst Lili Marleen
Wie einst Lili Marleen


Outside the barracks, by the corner light,
I’ll always stand and wait for you at night,
we will create a world for two,
I’ll wait for you the whole night through,
for you, Lili Marlene,
for you, Lili Marlene.

Bugle tonight don’t play the call to arms,
I want another evening with her charms,
then we will say goodbye and part,
I’ll always keep you in my heart,
with me, Lili Marlene,
with me, Lili Marlene.

Give me a rose to show how much you care,
tie to the stem a lock of golden hair,
surely tomorrow you’ll feel blue,
but then will come a love that’s new,
for you, Lili Marlene,
for you, Lili Marlene.

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 Marleene,
it’s you, Lili Marlene.


  1. I love the backstop here. And you are so right, music and art and poetry hold the soul when the world goes mad. It gives us a place to speak and to listen and to feel emotions that otherwise have no place to be given voice.

  2. I love learning something about history whether it is music, art, or writing and you’ve done a fabulous job Liz. I had no idea this song was a poem. It’s a great reminder that we are all human and should be more understanding of one another.

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