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Lale Andersen (b. 23 March 1905 in Lehe; d. 29 August 1972 in Vienna)


Film-Aufnahme und Schnitt: Monika B. Beyer


Lale Andersen started her career as a singer in 1920s Berlin. To realize her dream of a self-determined life, she exchanged the security of her first marriage for a Bohemian existence and endured the separation from her children. Harbour songs, shanties and turtleneck pullovers were to become her trademarks.
Lale Andersen was born in Bremerhaven-Lehe on 23 March 1905 as Liese-Lotte Helene Berta Bunnenberg. She was seventeen when she married the artist Paul Ernst Wilke, who was eleven years her senior, in 1922. In October 1929, the young mother of three separated from her husband and went to Berlin to launch a career.

Her programme included the big songwriters of the avant-garde and socio-critical music and theatre milieu of the Weimar Republic. Many of them were to become targets of National Socialist reprisals, for example Bertold Brecht, Kurt Weill, Kurt Tucholsky, Erich Kästner and Friedrich Holländer.

In 1941, Lale Andersen – as she now called herself – gained world fame virtually overnight with the song Lili Marleen. Reich propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels rejected the song on grounds that it “undermined military morale”. Its interpreter likewise did not conform to the National Socialist image of woman. In 1942 Lale Andersen was prohibited from performing and travelling for a lengthy period.

In February 1945 Andersen fled from the events of the war to the island of Langeoog, taking her youngest son Michael with her. Until her death, she guested on German and international stages and was present as a pop singer in film and television. When she died in Vienna on 29 August 1972, she was only sixty-seven.

Beate Borkowski