Vox Populi

Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry

Video: Marlene Dietrich — Sag mir, wo die Blumen sind?

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    This evocative video shows Marlene Dietrich performing a 1960 German language version of Pete Seeger’s song “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

    Marlene Dietrich was known to have strong political convictions and the mind to speak them. In interviews, Dietrich stated that when she was working in Hollywood in the 1930s, she had been approached by representatives of the Nazi Party to return to Germany but had turned them down. Instead, she stayed in America and created a fund with Billy Wilder and several other Germans to help Jews and dissidents escape from Germany. In 1937, her entire salary for Knight Without Armor ($450,000) was put into escrow to help the refugees. In 1939, she became an American citizen and renounced her German citizenship.

    The song has an interesting history as well. Pete Seeger often introduced the song by saying that he found inspiration for the lyrics in October 1955 while he was on a plane bound for a concert at Oberlin College, one of the few venues which would hire him during the McCarthy era. Leafing through his notebook he saw the passage, “Where are the flowers, the girls have plucked them. Where are the girls, they’ve all taken husbands. Where are the men, they’re all in the army.” These lines were taken from the traditional Cossack folk song “Koloda-Duda”, referenced in the Mikhail Sholokhov novel And Quiet Flows the Don (1934) which Seeger had read “at least a year or two before.”

    Here is the German version which Dietrich sings:

    Lyrics :
    Sag mir wo die Blumen sind,
    wo sind sie geblieben
    Sag mir wo die Blumen sind,
    was ist geschehen?
    Sag mir wo die Blumen sind,
    Mädchen pflückten sie geschwind
    Wann wird man je verstehen,
    wann wird man je verstehen?

    Sag mir wo die Mädchen sind,
    wo sind sie geblieben?
    Sag mir wo die Mädchen sind,
    was ist geschehen?
    Sag mir wo die Mädchen sind,
    Männer nahmen sie geschwind
    Wann wird man je verstehen?
    Wann wird man je verstehen?

    Sag mir wo die Männer sind
    wo sind sie geblieben?
    Sag mir wo die Männer sind,
    was ist geschehen?
    Sag mir wo die Männer sind,
    zogen fort, der Krieg beginnt,
    Wann wird man je verstehen?
    Wann wird man je verstehen?

    Sag wo die Soldaten sind,
    wo sind sie geblieben?
    Sag wo die Soldaten sind,
    was ist geschehen?
    Sag wo die Soldaten sind,
    über Gräben weht der Wind
    Wann wird man je verstehen?
    Wann wird man je verstehen?

    Sag mir wo die Gräber sind,
    wo sind sie geblieben?
    Sag mir wo die Gräber sind,
    was ist geschehen?
    Sag mir wo die Gräber sind,
    Blumen wehen im Sommerwind
    Wann wird man je verstehen?
    Wann wird man je verstehen?

    Sag mir wo die Blumen sind,
    wo sind sie geblieben?
    Sag mir wo die Blumen sind,
    was ist geschehen?
    Sag mir wo die Blumen sind,
    Mädchen pflückten sie geschwind
    Wann wird man je verstehen?
    Wann wird man je verstehen?

    .
    English Lyrics

    Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?
    Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?
    Where have all the flowers gone?
    Young girls have picked them, every one
    Oh when will they ever learn, oh when will they ever learn?

    Where have all the young girls gone, long time passing?
    Where have all the young girls gone, long time ago?
    Where have all the young girls gone?
    Gone for husbands, every one
    Oh when will they ever learn, oh when will they ever learn?

    Where have all the husbands gone, long time passing?
    Where have all the husbands gone, long time ago?
    Where have all the husbands gone?
    Gone for soldiers, every one
    Oh when will they ever learn, oh when will they ever learn?

    Where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?
    Where have all the soldiers gone, long time ago?
    Where have all the soldiers gone?
    Gone to graveyards, every one
    Oh when will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?

    Where have all the graveyards gone, long time passing?
    Where have all the graveyards gone, long time ago?
    Where have all the graveyards gone?
    Gone to flowers, every one
    Oh when will they ever learn, oh when will they ever learn?

    Email subscribers may click on the title of this post to watch the video.
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