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The disc was not a success, and had been more or less forgotten when it was chosen by Karl-Heinz Reintgen, who worked for the German army radio station in Belgrade covering southeastern Europe and north Africa. He first programmed the number on August 18 It was immediately picked up by Rommel's Afrika Korps, who made the song and the record a huge success. In Italy it was recorded by Gianna Pederzini. She specialised in songs about sailors, so for the sheet music cover the trooper became a matelot.
Before long, the British troops picked the song up and it travelled to England, to be recorded by Anne Shelton. It was not until that Marlene Dietrich began to use it in her concerts for allied troops, first in America, and then as she often related: It became so closely associated with Dietrich that many people assumed it had been written for her. When she appeared in London at the Albert Hall in for the El Alamein reunion she sang it again, with Field Marshal Montgomery leading the ovation.
Whether Schultze ever succeeded in gathering all the royalties that must have been due to him is unlikely, but he was an active member of the German performing rights organisation. Schultze was born in Braunschweig, the son of a professor of medicine. He began a career as a conductor, first in Heidelberg and then Darmstadt. He was employed briefly by the Telefunken record company, but then branched out as a composer, his first stage work being a fairy-tale opera, Schwarzer Peter This was followed by a ballet, Struwwelpeter , and his first film music, for a documentary, Der Stern von Tetuan In later life, Schultze defended himself against claims that he was a dedicated Nazi, by saying that the choice had been between working as a composer, mostly for propaganda films, or a likely death in the army.
During the war he composed music for many films, including Bismarck , Symphonie Eines Lebens , Eine Kleine Sommermelodie and Kolberg During the final weeks of the Third Reich, he was composing the score for Das Leben Geht Weiter, with a script co-written by Goebbels himself.
Not surprisingly, it was several years after the war before Schultze was able to resume his career. In the s Schultze composed many more film scores, including Max und Moritz, a "charming fairy tale" which he also co-directed and in which he starred. As recently as , he conducted a recording of his opera Das Kalte Herz. Lili Marleen itself has been the subject of at least three films: The song crops up whenever the war years need to be evoked, Dietrich herself used it in a scene with Spencer Tracy in Judgment at Nuremberg, her final Hollywood film, and it features in many others, from Play Dirty to Captain Corelli's Mandolin.