Lili Marlene was one of the most memorable songs from World War II. It started as a poem written by a German soldier during World War I. The poem tells the story of a sentry on watch remember the beautiful prostitute he would meet under the street lamp outside the barracks. This soldier remembers his love for this girl, how he would rather have gone off with her than gone to war. He thinks painfully of who will be meeting her under the lamplight while he is gone and he longs for the time he can leave the battlefield behind and return to his lady of the lamppost.
The Allies had their own songstresses. Marlene Dietrich had been a Hollywood star since 1930 but by 1937 she was no longer the "German Garbo" and her films generally failed. Nazis tried to lure her back promising she would be the biggest film star in the Third Reich. Dietrich responded by immediately applying for US citizenship. After the war started Dietrich recorded both an English and a German version of the song. Her German version was the original song made famous by Lale Andersen and was broadcast frequently by the Allies to German troops in Europe and North Africa. Dietrich's English version was very different and more closely resembled Goebbels' pro-war lyrics.
When we are marching in the mud and coldEngland's songbird Vera Lynn recorded an English version that, while not a direct translation, was more in the spirit of the original poem. French singer Edith Piaf performed it too.
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 Marlene
It's you, Lili Marlene ~ Marlene Dietrich's English language lyrics
The song is haunting especially in German and you don't need to understand the language to feel the song. There are at least two statues in Germany dedicated to Lili Marene. There is one on the island of Langeoog where Lale Andersen lived and this one in the town of Munster.