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Hogan’s Heroes And The Holocaust

Something funny happened on the way to researching my last post. I discovered that two of the regular cast members fled the Nazis in the 1930's, and one of them is a survivor of Buchenwald. Werner Klemperer's (Col. Klink) father … Read More

By / January 9, 2007

Something funny happened on the way to researching my last post. I discovered that two of the regular cast members fled the Nazis in the 1930's, and one of them is a survivor of Buchenwald.

Werner Klemperer's (Col. Klink) father was Jewish. Otto Klemperer, the famous conductor and composer, fled Germany in 1933 and sent for his wife and children after securing a job. Werner went on to play various Nazis in film, perhaps most notably in Judgment at Nuremberg. He only agreed to play Klink if the colonerl was portrayed as a fool who was constantly outwitted by the prisoners.

John Banner (Sgt. Schulz) had the good fortune to be out of his native Vienna on tour during the Anschluss. He made his way to America and became an actor, portraying Nazis during the war. All of his relatives in Austria died in concentration camps.

Robert Clary (Cpl. LeBeau) was deported to Buchenwald at age 16, with 12 other members of his family. He was the only survivor, however, some of his siblings remained in France. He wore long sleeves on the show to cover up his tattoo. In 1980, he discovered the need to talk about his experiences in Buchenwald and worked with the Simon Wiesenthal Center's outreach program.

One of my aunts could never see Hogan's Heroes on TV without angrily demanding we change the channel. There was nothing funny about a Nazi POW camp, she said, and she hated that Klink and Schultz were portrayed as bumbling, lovable fools. Now I wonder what she'd think if she knew that both of the actors were Jewish, and both had fled the Nazis.

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