Song inspired by cruelty of war
Nobody will be thinking of a young poet soldier called Hans Leip this festive season. But behind the lines at Christmas 1915, during a lull in First World War hostilities, this 22-year-old German wrote the lyrics of Lili Marlene, which eventually became a mighty wartime hit.
Hans, from Hamburg, the son of a harbour master, was called up by the German army while working as a teacher in 1914 and served on the Eastern Front.
His purpose in writing the emotive ballad — about a girl waiting in vain underneath a street light for her soldier boyfriend, who had been sent to the front — was to express his feelings about the cruelty of war.
Leip was later wounded and discharged on medical grounds. His poem, called Lili after his girlfriend and Marlene after a nurse with whom he was acquainted, was set to music by Norbert Schultze in 1938 and became a hit all over again in the Second World War, both for the Allies and the Germans.
It was recorded by Marlene Deitrich, Vera Lynn and Lale Andersen and later by Frank Sinatra.