‘Hogan’s Heroes’ Star and Holocaust Survivor Dead at 96

CBS Television

Robert Clary survived a concentration camp during WWII for 31 months. He went on to have a successful acting career, staring in “Hogan’s Heroes,” and later spoke out about his experience during the Holocaust and how he felt about acting on a show that joked about Nazis. Now, at the age of 96, he has died. He was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust, and he was the last living member of the original cast of “Hogan’s Heroes.”

Clary was born in Paris, France, in 1926. He grew up in a strict Orthodox Jewish family with 13 older brothers and sisters. He was the youngest in his family.

Clary started performing at a young age. When he was 12 years old, he began singing and dancing. Just four years later, when he was 16 years old, Nazi soldiers showed up and forced him and his entire family to take a train to Auschwitz. He ended up spending 31 months in various concentration camps. He was the only member of his family to survive. 

In part, Clary believed that being able to entertain himself and others helped him survive. In 2015, he told The Hollywood Reporter, “Singing, entertaining and being in kind of good health at my age, that’s why I survived.”

In May 1945, Clary returned to France, finally a free man. He sang in dance halls in his home country before moving to Los Angeles in 1949. His first TV credit was in 1949, but his most famous role was that of Corporal LeBeau on “Hogan’s Heros.” He acted in 168 episodes of the show from 1965-1971.

In his 2001 memoir, “From the Holocaust to Hogan’s Heroes,” Clary explained why he was okay with acting on a comedic TV show that was set during WWII. He explained 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.”

Other TV credits include “The Young and the Restless,” “Fantasy Island,” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.”

Clary didn’t talk about his experience during the Holocaust for several decades after the war. He explained, “For 36 years I kept these experiences during the war locked up inside myself.”

Eventually, Clary decided that he couldn’t keep his experience to himself any longer. He needed to speak out. He said, “Those who are attempting to deny the Holocaust, my suffering and the suffering of millions of others have forced me to speak out.” For over two decades, Clary toured the country speaking at universities.

Learn more about Clary’s experience during WWII in the video below.