THE MAN WHO MADE LILI MARLENE THE WORLD’s MOST POPULAR WARTIME BALLAD
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Born in Braunschweig, Germany, the son of a professor of medicine, Norbert Schultze (1911 – 2002 studied music at the Hochschule fur Musik in Cologne. He was afterwards to become an orchestral conductor, first performing at Heidelberg and then later at Darmstadt. Realising he had a gift for composition the young musician produced an opera based on a fairy tale, Schwarzer Peter (1936). This was followed by the ballet performance, Struwwelpeter (1937).
Schultze’s family had barely survived the British naval blockade imposed after World War One in which 800,000 German civilians had perished. This blockade had forced Germany’s then leaders to accept, reluctantly (‘at the point of a pistol ~ Herman Goering’) the horrendous terms of the Versailles Treaty. This infamous Treaty is now recognised as being the detonation of World War Two. Eighty-years later, Russian President Vladimir Putin is remarkably candid. “Germany is not responsible for World War II but the Allies who won World War I are.”
The aspiring musician could hardly choose the time or place of his German birth. He too was a child of the times and was later caught up in the cauldron of World War Two. Having by then forged himself a career in music and theatre the story of Norbert Schultze is a foot-tapping musical odyssey. His career and his compositions, like Franz Lehar’s, had the rather unique distinction of not only charming German listeners and audiences but enchanting audiences throughout the world; it still does.
Norbert Schultze is also remembered for putting the Hans Leip poem, Lili Marlene to music. He later revealed to a BBC researcher that this composition was first intended as a toothpaste commercial ditty. It was for record buffs the very first German best-seller. If you Google Norbert Schultze for this musician’s biography you will see they still falsely describes Lili Marlene as a prostitute. In fact, Lili was the young German conscript’s girlfriend; Marlene was his comrade’s girlfriend. They were both young ladies of the period. There was never any possibility that these two youngsters were prostitutes. Mainstream media relentlessly seeks ever murkier depths to poison the well of human knowledge.
Norbert Schultze was equally gifted at creating memorable film and opera scores. His many other compositions included the operas Schwarzer Peter (Black Headed Peter) and Das Kalte Herze (The Cold Heart). The musical Kapt’n Bye-Bye is remembered for the delightful melody Nimm’ mich mit, Kapitan, auf die Reise (Take me Travelling, Captain).
In the early 1930s, Norbert departed Cologne and the musician took up residence in Munich. It was in Germany’s second city that he worked under the name of Frank Norbert and acted under that name too. Schultze conducted in Darmstadt, Munich, and Mannheim. During the middle 1930s, the market for artists and artists tended towards the patriotic and folk genre.
With the war preparations taking place in France, Britain and the Soviet Union, there was also German demand for new martial songs and marches. A general feeling that Germany was under threat now pervaded.
A National Socialist Workers Party member, Schultze composed and arranged numerous songs and marches that reflected the period’s mood. Those interested in the more martial compositions of the Third Reich will recall Von Finnland bis zum Schwarzen Meer (From Finland to the Black Sea). This, of course, was a celebration of the Third Reich at its most triumphant and virile. Norbert Schultze was also famous for Tanks Roll in Africa and Bombs on England and Poland.
His popularity throughout the German armed forces was the stuff of legend. There was an insatiable demand for new Norbert Schultze melodies and marches. Schultze composed the scores for Veit Harlan’s morale-boosting movie Kolberg. He also provided the music for the documentary Baptism of Fire (Feuertaufe).
Arrested after the Reich armies surrender Norbert Schultze’s status was defined by the Allied occupiers as a ‘Nazi Fellow Traveller.’ After attending tedious brain-washing lectures, that the defeated Germans had little choice about, Schultze was deemed to have been de-Nazified. Then the crunch: The gifted composer was ‘invited to pay 3,000 Deutsch Marks in return for a work permit’. The graft was part of the full democracy package delivered to the ‘liberated’ Germany too.
With little choice, he managed to find the money to bribe his way back into work. The royalties from his works produced between 1933 and 1945 Schultze donated to the German Red Cross. Undoubtedly his music put a bounce into universal sailor and soldier steps whilst gladdening the hearts of sweethearts and wives back home.
The musician worked under several pseudonyms. If you happily chance upon melodies composed by Frank Norbert, Peter Kornfeld, and Henry Iverson, then you are in fact listening to the venerable Norbert Schultze. Norbert Schultze was as prolific a composer after the war as he was before and throughout that awful conflict. He wrote numerous operas, operettas, and film music. Over fifty movies were set to his background music.
His biography and many others can be seen in HEROES OF THE REICH by Michael Walsh.
Related story THE BALLAD OF A YOUNG SENTRY
MICHAEL WALSH is an Irish British-born journalist. His 52 books include best-selling THE ALL LIES INVASION, WITNESS TO HISTORY, TWILIGHT OVER ENGLAND, HEROES OF THE REICH, HEROES HANG WHEN TRAITORS TRIUMPH and UNCENSORED ADOLF HITLER.
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