'Hogan's Heroes' Cast Included An Actual Holocaust Survivor, WWII Heroes

By Rebeka Knott
Left: Bob Crane as Col. Hogan and Werner Klemperer as Col. Klink on 'Hogan's Heroes.' Right: John Banner as Sgt. Schultz and Robert Clary as Cpl. LeBeau. Source: IMDB

On Hogan's Heroes, Bob Crane's Col. Hogan and his international band of prisoners-of-war had a cozy, though adversarial, relationship with their captors, in the form of Col. Klink (Werner Klemperer) and Sgt. Schultz (John Banner). Over the course of six seasons (1965-71), Hogan regularly outsmarted Klink and Schultz, pulling the wool over their eyes while assisting other Allied forces with fictional missions.

While Hogan's Heroes has been criticized for portraying Nazis as bumblers rather than barbaric kills, there's a story behind the show that isn't as well known: Several of the actors were European Jews who'd fled Nazi persecution, and one was a survivor of the Buchenwald concentration camp.

It was a strange balancing act. The Germans' treatment of prisoners in concentration camps or labor camps had been savage, and the leaders and high-ranking officers -- the true believers in the Third Reich -- had been despicable genocidal maniacs, bent on destroying the Jewish people but also other groups, including Slavs, Romani ("Gypsies"), gay men and lesbians, Soviets and leftists.

It's hard to imagine Hogan's Heroes getting the green light today -- should it have been made in 1965? That's not for us to say -- the fact remains that it was made, and was one of the most popular series on TV in its day. And for some of the cast, who'd escaped or, at least, survived Nazi persecution, it may have been a cathartic experience.