The Untold Hogan’s Heroes

Well, not completely untold, but I’m amazed at how many people have never heard this story. Over on Twitter, Don Surber made a post about Hogan’s Heroes and how all the Nazi’s were played by Jewish actors. In fact, the major actors all had very personal stories and reasons to want to portray the Nazis in a bad light.

For example, Werner Klemperer was the son of a famous conductor who had to flee Germany because of his Jewish heritage. After serving in the U.S. Army during WWII, he moved into acting and if not for Hogan’s Heroes would probably be remembered for his role as an unrepentant Nazi judge in Judgement at Nuremberg. He took the role of Klink on the promise that he could make him as bumbling and foolish as possible, and that none of Klink’s schemes would succeed.

John Banner, who played Sgt. Shultz, was the only survivor of his family. He was on tour in Switzerland when the Anschluss took place, and being unable to return to his native Vienna immigrated to the U.S. His parents and all of his siblings perished in the camps. He never saw Shultz as a Nazi, but rather “…representative of some kind of goodness in any generation.”

Robert Clary, who played Cpl. Lebeau, had the most intense story out of any of the main actors. He survived the camps, though most of his siblings and family did not. He’s still alive in Paris, and still has his number on his arm. He may still lecture on the Holocaust and his experiences, and you should read and/or hear what he has to say.

Leon Askin, who played Gen. Burkhalter, was another who fled. Not once, but twice. In 1933, he was detained and beaten by the SA and fled to Paris for a few years. He then returned to Vienna, and worked on (or leading) various projects until he was forced to leave again in 1938 for Paris. He ended up in the Meslay du Maine internment camp before making his way to New York in 1940. His parents were murdered at Treblinka. During WWII, he served in the U.S. Army Air Corps.

They are not alone, in that any number of supporting or guest actors share a similar background and/or stories. As for why, a number of them apparently relished the idea of portraying the Nazis as bumbling idiots as a measure of revenge as it were. Perhaps, however, John Banner summed it up best with his take “Well, who better to play Nazis than we Jews?”

Something different for the day, with a lot of food for thought inside.


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