It surely wasn’t easy to make an American sitcom about a group of prisoners of war set in a Nazi German POW camp … but somehow, the acclaimed classic TV show Hogan’s Heroes pulled it off. From 1965-1971, fans tuned in to CBS to see what the fates had in store for the talented cast of characters.
For at least one actor, Robert Clary, the show’s subject hit close to home. The French-born actor survived several years in concentration camps, giving him a firsthand look at the tragedies of war. Clary’s recent passing at the age of 96 has fans wondering if any of the main Hogan’s Heroes cast members are still alive.
Hogan’s Heroes: A funny show about a dark time in history
While it’s safe to say that no one looks back fondly on World War II or Nazi Germany, the Hogan’s Heroes team managed to create a humorous sitcom based around the antics of a group of Allied soldiers stuck in a Nazi POW camp. And while other attempts have come close (like F Troop), there has never been a show quite like this one.
Believe it or not, Hogan’s Heroes was originally meant to be set in an American jail, according to MeTV. When series co-creator Albert S. Ruddy heard that NBC was developing a show called Campo 44 that would be set in an Italian World War II prison camp, so he rewrote his script immediately. The Campo 44 pilot was a flop, but Hogan’s Heroes was a big hit.
Let’s take a look at the main cast members and see where they ended up.
Bob Crane started his career as a radio personality, starting in Hornell, New York and moving to Connecticut. His radio career continued when he moved to LA, but in the 1960s, he transitioned to acting. His role as Colonel Robert Hogan was his biggest, earning him two Emmy nominations.
Crane’s career declined after Hogan’s Heroes, and unfortunately, his life met a tragic end. He was found bludgeoned to death with an unidentified weapon. While someone was eventually arrested for the crime, he was acquitted, and the murder was never solved.
Werner Klemperer was born in Germany, but his family moved to the United States when he was a teenager, according to TCM. Although Klempere played a Nazi on the show, he was actually Jewish in real life.
While his role on Hogan’s Heroes was what made him famous, he had a long career in film and television, starring as a psychiatrist in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man and playing another Nazi in the 1961 film Judgment at Nuremberg. Klemperer died in the year 2000 from cancer at the age of 80.
John Banner, Sergeant Schultz
John Banner was an Austrian born actor, born to Jewish parents who immigrated to the U.S. with the family in 1939. In 1943, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps, serving until 1945, according to The New York Times. Unfortunately, Banner lost a lot of family during the Holocaust, so his willingness to serve must have been personal.
In addition to his role on Hogan’s Heroes, Banner starred on Broadway and appeared in more than 40 feature films. He died in 1973, on his 63rd birthday, following an abdominal hemorrhage.
Richard Dawson, Newkirk
Richard Dawson was well-known as a comedian and game show host in addition to his acting career. He was the original host of Family Feud and a regular panelist on Match Game. His role as Corporal Peter Newkirk was a secondary one, but he was well-loved by the show’s fans. Dawson died in 2012 at the age of 79 from cancer complications, according to Wired.
obert Clary’s life had a rough start. Born in France in 1926 to Polish Jewish immigrants, he was the youngest of 14 children, 10 of whom died during the Holocaust. While at the concentration Camp, Clary would sing to an audience of SS soldiers every other Sunday, and credits his youth and health with his survival.
When he was liberated, Clary continued his career in France, eventually immigrating to the U.S. He enjoyed a long career on Broadway, in film, and on numerous shows before and after accepting his role on Hogan’s Heroes. Clary lived to be 96 and only recently died at his home in November 2022, according to NPR.
The last Hogan’s hero cast member
Sadly, Robert Clary was the last remaining principal Hogan’s Heroes cast member. You can read all about his interesting life in his memoir, From the Holocaust to Hogan’s Heroes: The Autobiography of Robert Clary, which was published in 2001.
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