Robert Clary, a Jewish man from Paris who had fled concentration camps as a child and later appeared in the popular 1960s sitcom “Hogan’s Heroes,” which was set in a German POW camp during World War II, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 96. A niece, Brenda Hancock, verified the demise.
The little one Mr Clary is most known for playing Cpl. Louis LeBeau, a French prisoner in the fictitious Stalag 13 on “Hogan’s Heroes,” which aired on CBS from 1965 to 1971. LeBeau was a part of a group of witty Allied saboteurs operating out of a camp, directed by Col. Robert E. Hogan from Bob Crane. When he wasn’t blowing up bridges, LeBeau prepared delectable French dishes in the barracks. The show’s final surviving star was Mr Clary.
Even in the sometimes absurdist milieu of 1960s comedy, “Hogan’s Heroes,” which made its premiere barely 20 years after the conclusion of the war, posed concerns of taste. The comedy, which satirised German troops and SS leaders as clumsy, egotistical buffoons, included numerous actors of Jewish origin who had first-hand experience with Nazism, but few viewers at the time were aware of this.
Among them was Werner Klemperer, whose family fled Berlin for Los Angeles when Mr Klemperer was 13 to avoid persecution. He played the pusillanimous camp commander, Col. Klink, and is the son of famed orchestra director Otto Klemperer. After Germany conquered Austria in 1938, John Banner, who portrayed the idiotic Sgt. Schultz escaped his native country.
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Mr. Clary had the most vivid memories of Nazi horrors of anyone in the performance. He spent nearly three years in German detention camps as a teenager and lost 10 of his 13 siblings as well as his parents in the Holocaust.
He subsequently claimed that his talent as an entertainer kept him alive after he was sent to Buchenwald and Ottmuth, two concentration camps in Upper Silesia. He would put on song and dance routines for other prisoners and frequently for SS personnel.
Mr. Clary was the moniker given to Robert Max Widerman on March 1st, 1926 in Paris. Six children from a woman who died in delivery were brought to the marriage by his father, a tailor who was 15 years older than Mr. Clary’s mother. Following World War I, his parents, Moishe and Baila Widerman, moved to Paris from Poland. Of the other eight children the couple had together, Mr. Clary was the youngest.