Hogan's Heroes was a hilarious and iconic 1960's American TV series, set in a World War Two Luftwaffe prisoner of war camp. Colonel Robert Hogan and his band of undercover agents masquerading as prisoners of war, along with the bumbling commandant Colonel Wilhelm Klink, the impossible-to-hate Sergeant Schultz and the cast of excellent actors made this show a smash hit that is still revered to this very day.
One of the bizarre facets of Hogan's Heroes was the casting. Not many people realise that many of the actors and nearly all of the regular Nazis in the show were Jews, some of whom had fled the Nazis and had actually been incarcerated in concentration camps.
Colonel Wilhelm Klink - Werner Klemperer was the son of famed classical orchestra conductor Otto Von Klemperer. Werner was a talented dramatic actor, as evidenced by his acclaimed performance as an arrogant, unrepentant Nazi judge being tried for crimes against humanity in the classic movie Judgment at Nuremberg. His identification with Nazi roles notwithstanding, Klemperer was in real life the son of a Jew who fled with his family from Nazi Germany in the 1930s. He served in the US Army as a military policeman during World War Two. When he was offered the role of the vain, bumbling, bemonocled Colonel. Klink, Klemperer only agreed to do it if the show's producers promised that Klink would never succeed in any of his schemes. The Colonel Klink role earned Klemperer five Emmy nominations and he took home the trophy twice. After the series, Klemperer carved out an impressive musical career as a conductor and also served as a narrator with many major US symphony orchestras. Unlike his Klink character who murdered the violin every time he touched it, Klemperer was actually an accomplished concert pianist and violinist.
Sergeant Hans Schultz - John Banner (real name Johann Banner) achieved legendary status and immortality for his portrayal of Sergeant Schultz. His catchcry of "I know NOTHING - NOTHING!" became part of the English vernacular. Banner was born in Vienna, the capital of what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Jewish 28-year-old Banner was forced to abandon his homeland after the 1938 Anschluss (union) between Nazi Germany and Austria, which occurred while he was engaged in a tour of Switzerland with an acting company. Unable to return to Austria due to Hitler's anti-Semitic policies of persecution, he emigrated to the USA as a political refugee. Banner enjoyed the role of Schultz, but when accused of portraying a cuddly Nazi, he said that he saw Schultz as the representative of some kind of goodness in every generation. Banner actually did spend time in a Nazi concentration camp before they became killing houses and he managed to get out in time, however his entire family was murdered by the Nazis.
General Albert Burkhalter - Leon Askin (real name Leo Aschkenazy) was born in Austria, then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Askin fled the Nazis and went to the USA, where he carved out a distinguished career alongside some of the greatest actors in Hollywood. He returned to Vienna to live in 1994 and started to perform cabaret and appeared in various productions with the Volksoper, one of Vienna's finest opera companies. He received Vienna's Gold Medal of Honour, one of the city's most distinguished prizes. He was also awarded the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art and in 1994, he was presented with the Silver Cross of Honour and in 2002, he was honoured with the Gold Cross of Honour for service to the City of Vienna. He was granted the honorary title of Professor by Minister Scholten in 1996 and again honoured with the Austrian Cross of Honour (First Class) for Science and Art in 2002.
Major Wolfgang Hochstetter - Howard Caine (real name Howard Cohen) was a Jewish actor who moved with his family from his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee to New York City, where he began studying acting. Learning to erase his Southern accent, he went on to became a master of 32 foreign and American dialects. After service in the US Navy during World War Two, Caine continued his studies at The School of Drama, Columbia University, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude. Caine had always been fascinated with the Appalachian five-string banjo and began mastering it in the mid-1960s. Since 1970 until his untimely death in 1993, Caine had taken trophies at 29 prominent banjo and fiddle contests in the Southland for both Best Traditional Banjo and Traditional Singing. He was also a popular folk singer and appeared at a number of prominent folk clubs and folk festivals.
General von Schlomm, General Von Scheider - Harold Gould (real name Harold Vernon Goldstein) earned a PhD in theatre and taught speech and drama at Cornell University. Pursuing some off-Broadway work in the 1950s, he decided to practice what he preached and became a full-time professional actor in the 1960s. He appeared in hundreds of TV shows, usually playing a father, grandfather or other authority figure. In fact he invented the role of Howard Cunningham, but declined the role in the series Happy Days that eventually went to Tom Bosley.
Field Marshall Rudolf Richter - Harold J Stone (real name Harold Jacob Hochstein) was the scion of a Jewish acting family who established themselves in the Yiddish theatre. Stone started on stage with his father as a child, but once considered a career in medicine, attaining a BA degree at the University of Buffalo Medical School, but acting proved too powerful a magnet. He appeared in many movies and TV series over some decades.
Otto Von Krubner, Sergeant Franks - Milton Selzer appeared in a huge number of movies and TV shows, usually playing a host of usually unsympathetic mobsters, gamblers and crooks, notably The Untouchables, The Fugitive, Hawaii Five-O and Mission: Impossible. Always in demand with his trademark glum face, bulbous nose and spoon-shaped ears, Selzer went on to enjoy a five-decade plus acting career.
Lieutenant Baumann - Lloyd Bochner was born to a middle-class Jewish family in Toronto, Canada. He began his acting career on Ontario radio programs at the tender age of 11 and went on to garner two Liberty Awards, the highest acting honour in Canada, for his work in Canadian film and theatre. In 1951 he moved to New York City and appeared in a host of TV shows and then movies. He was featured in blockbuster TV series such as Dynasty and performed frequent voice-over work for many animated series.
General Freidrich von Heiner - Theodore Marcuse graduated with a BA and MA in classical literature from Stamford University and was at one time artist-in-residence. He served with distinction as a lieutenant aboard the US submarine Tirante during World War Two, earning himself a Silver Star and other citations for bravery. After the war, he performed on Broadway and for many years he served his apprenticeship in smallish parts until he established a reputation as an expert dialectician, ideally cast as assorted eastern Europeans, arrogant Nazi officers or crime figures of Arabic, Italian or Jewish extraction. Marcuse's life was cut short at the age of 47 as a result of a car crash while driving under the influence of alcohol.
Colonel Sitzer - Allan Oppenheimer was a regular on 1960s TV sitcoms as eggheaded foils to Lucille Ball and many others, playing official types. However, he was one of the finest animated voice artists in the business. Oppenheimer has provided many famous cartoon voices including Mighty Mouse, Skeletor and Ming the Merciless, among hundreds of others over a four-decade career.
Captain Bohrmann - Sandy Kenyon, born Sanford Klein, was born in The Bronx in New York City and was a pilot in the US Army Air Corps during World War 2. In civilian life, he worked as an American voice-over artist and character actor of film and television. Kenyon appeared as a guest actor on numerous television series, but had recurring roles as various Nazis in Hogan's Heroes, such as Colonel Bessler, Colonel Hauptmann, Major Hans Kuehn and SS Major Bock. His very Germanic visage made him look like a a genuine Nazi, yet he was an American Jew.
Gestapo Captain Pruhst - Malachi Throne (real name Throne Malachi) was born in New York City on 01 December 1928, the son of Samuel and Rebecca Throne, who had emigrated to America from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He began performing at an early age as a boy soprano. During World War Two, the young Throne Malachi - too young to serve in the military - quit school to work in theatre, though he later returned and received his high school diploma. In 1950, the Korean War broke out and Throne wound up in the infantry attached to an armoured unit. He returned to the New York theatrical scene after being demobilised. He resisted pressure to change his name in order to ethnically cleanse his Jewish heritage, in order to get parts in a time in which anti-Semitism was still rife.
Oscar Schnitzer - Walter Janovicz was born in Teplitz-Schönau, Austria-Hungary and played the German master of the Stalag's 'attack' German Shepherds who only ever attacked Germans. As well as his ongoing role in Hogan's Heroes, Janovicz appeared in The Incredible Hulk (1977) and It Takes a Thief (1968). He died on May 27, 1997 in Corona, California USA.
Gestapo Captain - Curt Lowens was born into a Jewish family in the East Prussian town of Allenstein (since become Olsztyn, Poland) in the 1920s. His father was a respected lawyer, but his career folded due to loss of clients with the rise of the Third Reich. The family moved into a Jewish community in Berlin in 1936, but later decided to leave for the USA. While waiting to set out from Rotterdam, however, the Germans invaded Holland on the intended day of their departure. In June 1943, they were sent to Westerbork and from there to Auschwitz, though they were later released. On leaving, the family went underground. Lowens became an active member of the resistance, rescuing Jewish children under a false identity. Following the close of World War Two, the family emigrated to the USA and Lowens became an actor. He appeared in over 100 films and TV shows since 1960. Ironically, given his background, he was often cast as a German soldier.
Captain Herber - Noam Pitlik was an American television director and actor. He played a myriad of roles in Hogan's Heroes, sometimes as a Nazi and sometimes as an American and was a regular performer in the show. In 1979, Pitlik won a Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series for his work on the sitcom Barney Miller. In fact, the very versatile Pitlik appeared in no less than 82 different TV series, playing every conceivable role possible.
Colonel Becker - HM Wynant (real name Haim Weiner) was born in Detroit Michigan, but went to New York City with virtually no money to try his hand at acting. He had a long and distinguished career on in stage plays on Broadway and in a number of movies and television series.
Corporal Louis Le Beau - Robert Clary (real name Robert Max Widerman) was interned in the notorious Buchenwald Nazi concentration camp as a child and has a tattoo on his left forearm 'A5714' from this horrific experience. He was the youngest of 14 children; most of whom died in Nazi concentration camps. In Hogan's Heroes, Clary was never seen in short-sleeved shirts because of that tattoo.
Antononovich - Henry Corden (real name Henry Cohen) will forever be associated with and fondly remembered for providing the bellicose, gravel-toned rasp of cartoon immortal Fred Flintstone. He enjoyed a long and varied career prior to this distinction, which took up most of his later years. Born in Montreal, Canada, Henry's family moved to New York while he was still a child. Although he featured in many movies and TV series, Corden made a highly lucrative move into animation in the 1960s, supplying a host of voices on cartoons such as Jonny Quest, The Jetsons, Secret Squirrel, Atom Ant, Josie and the Pussycats and The Harlem Globetrotters. Corden hit his peak when he inherited the voice of Flintstone and would go on to give life to this character for nearly three decades on various revamped cartoon series, animated specials and cereal commercials.
Marya - The exotic and stunning looking actress of Russian descent, Nita Talbot (real name Anita Sokol) is mostly known for her role as the Russian spy Marya in Hogan's Horoes, as well as Sheila Fine in the evening soap opera, Soap and as the voice for Anastasia Hardy, the businesswoman mother of Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat, in the 1990s Spider-Man animated series. Talbot received an Emmy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for the 1967-1968 season. She began her acting career appearing as a model in the film, It's a Great Feeling in 1949. She then appeared in many movies and TV shows.
For really terrific and comprehensive biographies on the Jewish cast of Hogan's Heroes, Hogan's Jews is hard to beat and makes very fascinating reading.
After the above page appeared on my website, I was contacted by an American lady called Eleanor Velarde, who resided in Canada. She told me that she loved this article, especially as she was Werner Klemperer's cousin. I was most gratified to see that my article had interested somebody so close to one of the main stars of Hogan's Heroes. Eleanor was the daughter of renowned scientist Wolfgang Klemperer. Unfortunately she passed away on 25 March 2020 before I could make further contact with this very fascinating woman.