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Cover for Lili Marlene

Lili Marlene

The Soldiers' Song of World War II

Liel Leibovitz, Matthew Miller


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The dramatic story of an iconic love song, its three creators, and their lives under the Nazis.

"Lili Marlene," the unlikely anthem of World War II, cut across front lines and ideological divides, uniting soldiers across the globe. This love song, telling the story of a young woman waiting for her lover to return from the battlefield, began as a poem written by a German solider during World War I. The soldier-poet's words found their way to Berlin's decadent cabaret scene in the 1930s, where they were set to music by one of Hitler's favored composers. The song's singer, however, soon found herself torn between her desire for fame and a personal hatred of the Nazi regime. In a gripping and suspenseful narrative, the three artists' remarkable stories of arrests and close calls intertwine with the recollections of soldiers on all sides who fought their way through deserts and towns, seeking solace and finding hope in "Lili Marlene."

Praise For Lili Marlene: The Soldiers' Song of World War II

A fascinating story. Lively and well-informed, this book tells it all, with lots of attention to the travails of those involved.
— Atlantic Monthly

Not even the most iconic of songs necessarily deserves its very own biography, but in the case of that Second World War classic, "Lili Marlene," dear to soldiers and civilians on both sides, there really is a fascinating story to tell. Forged in the crucible of 20th-century German history, a First World War favorite composers, recorded by an ambitious, anti-Nazi singer. Lively and well-informed, this book tells it all, with lots of attention to the travails of those involved. Nazi music had some rousing tunes, but generally the lyrics were rebarbative. Here the sentiments are unobjectionable and universal, just made for a time when the shadow of the barracks gate was bound to heighten romance under lamplight for a world at war.
— The Atlantic

W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393065848, 256pp.

Publication Date: November 17, 2008

About the Author

Liel Leibovitz is a senior writer for Tablet magazine and teaches at New York University. He is the coauthor of Fortunate Sons, Lili Marlene, and The Chosen Peoples. He lives in New York City.

Matthew Milleris the co-author of Lili Marlene: The Soldiers’ Song of World War II. He lives in New York.