Last Surviving ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ Original Cast Member Dies at 96
It was a television program that I grew up loving, and he was one of my favorite characters.
Robert Clary, born Robert Max Widerman, was a French actor who played Corporal Louis LeBeau, died this morning from an unspecified cause.
The US Holocaust Museum Tweeted news of his death today.
Watching the program when I was a kid (reruns, of course), I was fascinated with the way the allies had set up a secret underground camp at a POW prison.
Of course, at the time, I hadn't quite grasped the difference between television and reality.
As I grew older and learned more about the war and spent time in the military (in Germany), I would often think about old episodes of "Hogan's Heroes", realizing that most of the Germans in real life weren't as bumbling as Klink and Schultz.
It was also many years after I first watched the show that I learned that several of the actors on the show were actually survivors of the Holocaust, including Robert Clary.
According to Wikipedia, Clary was Jewish, the youngest of 14 children, and he was one of the luckier members of his family.
10 of his siblings died in concentration camps during the Holocaust.
Clary was born in 1929 in Paris and began singing professionally at the age of 12.
He says that his youth and talents kept him alive in the concentration camps.
Other facts I've recently learned about the cast of "Hogan's Heroes":
Werner Klemperer, "Colonel Klink" was Jewish, and would only take the role if "Klink" never appeared to be a hero.
John Banner, "Sergeant Schultz" was Jewish. Born in what is now Ukraine, he emigrated to the US when the Nazis invaded Austria.
Leon Askin, "General Burkahlter", was Jewish. Born in Austria, he lost both of his parents in the Holocaust.
I was amazed when I learned how many actors on the show had direct ties to the Holocaust.
The only remaining cast member (of the "main" cast) from "Hogan's Heroes" is Kenneth Washington, who played "SGT Richard Baker" in the final season of the series, according to Wikipedia.
He had a tattoo on his forearm, a concentration camp identification number: A5714.
May he rest in peace.
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