The so-called 'Großer Zapfenstreich' (Great Tattoo) is the highest military ceremony of the Bundeswehr (armed forces) in which Germany's President, Chancellor and Defence Minister are bid farewell.
The power ballad by the German rock band, which has sold an estimated 14 million copies since its release in 1991, was performed by a military brass band during the ceremony attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Von der Leyen, who takes office on November 1st, replacing outgoing European
Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, last month handed over as defence
minister to Merkel's favoured successor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
The politician “probably did not choose the song because it was a worldwide success by a group that comes from the same region of Hanover as she does”, Scorpions lead singer Klaus Meine, who also wrote the ballad, told the DPA news agency.
German broadcaster ARD's 'Das Erste' features a video of von der Leyen watching the song played by a military brass band. Photo: DPA
“The song has a deeper meaning especially in relation to her new role as head of the European Commission,” he said.
“The dream of peace continues to live from generation to generation,” he added.
Von der Leyen, who was visibly moved by the ceremony, also chose the European Union's anthem Ode to Joy and Mozart's Ave verum.
Choices by previous defence ministers have included “Live is Life” by Austrian pop group Opus and “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple.
'A notoriously difficult portfolio'
Von der Leyen is the only Merkel cabinet member to have been there since the beginning of 2005, when the Chancellor took office, having run first the family affairs and then the labour ministry.
In 2013 she became Germany's first female defence minister, a notoriously difficult portfolio given post-war Germany's touchy relationship with military affairs and frequent defence equipment failures.
During her term, Germany has deployed troops in missions from Afghanistan to Mali while drawing frequent political fire from US President Donald Trump for what he considers Berlin's insufficient military spending.
In the tough post, von der Leyen has weathered scandals over far-right extremists within the army, controversial contracts with business consultancies and cost over-runs, including for the renovation of a vintage naval vessel.