Thursday, November 17, 2022

‘Hogan’s Heroes’ star a Auschwitz survivor, dead at 96


French actor and Holocaust survivor Robert Clary has died at age 96.

The “Hogan’s Heroes” star, who played Corporal LeBeau on the World War II-era sitcom, passed away on Tuesday, his granddaughter Kim Wright told the Hollywood Reporter.

His cause of death was not given.

Clary was the last surviving member of the show’s original principal cast.

Born Robert Max Widerman in Paris on March 1, 1926, Clary was the youngest of 14 kids born to his strict Orthodox Jewish parents.

When he was 16, he and his family were sent to Auschwitz, where his parents were murdered in the gas chamber.

“My mother said the most remarkable thing,” Clary told the Reporter in 2015 about that day. “She said, ‘Behave.’ She probably knew me as a brat. She said, ‘Behave. Do what they tell you to do.’”

Clary was the only one from his captured family to survive. He wound up incarcerated at the Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald for 31 months, where he made wooden shoe heels in a factory and got the identification number “A-5714” tattooed on his left forearm.

“Singing, entertaining and being in kind of good health at my age, that’s why I survived,” he said of singing with an accordionist every other Sunday for Schutzstaffel (SS) soldiers at Buchenwald.

In May 1945, Clary returned to France and sang in dance halls. Four years later, he headed to Los Angeles to record for Capitol Records and, in 1950, appeared in a French comedy skit on a CBS variety show hosted by comedian Ed Wynn.

Clary, who starred in “Hogan’s Heroes” on CBS from September 1965 to April 1971, waited 36 years to publicly discuss his Holocaust experiences.

“I had to explain that [‘Hogan’s Heroes’] was about prisoners of war in a stalag, not a concentration camp, and although I did not want to diminish what soldiers went through during their internments, it was like night and day from what people endured in concentration camps,” he wrote in his 2001 memoir, “From the Holocaust to Hogan’s Heroes,” per THR.

He also worked on soap operas including “Days of Our Lives,” “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and The Beautiful.”

Clary was married to his mentor Eddie Cantor’s daughter, Natalie, for 32 years. She died in 1997.


Anonymous said...

When I was a kid, my father hated when I watched the show. The Germans weren't idiots! They weren't lovable goofs! They were evil incarnate and showing them like this dulled down the horror of what they did.
It was before the internet so there was lots we didn't know, like how many of the cast were Jewish, how Lebeau had been in Auschwitz, Schultz had fought in the American army against them, and Klink was an escapee from Austria. And that this was their therapy.

Anonymous said...

Exactly NEVER understood how NO one protested that this popular prime-time T.V program was making a mockery out the suffering, cruelty and extermination of millions of our people. never could fathom why he would choose to participate by acting in this show portraying -and by extension- the holocaust as some kind satire. What a grave injustice to the Jewish nation WHAT was he THINKING ? ? ! !