On Wednesday, November 16, 2022, beloved Hogan’s Heroes sitcom actor Robert Clary passed away peacefully at home in Los Angeles. He was ninety-six years old at the time of his death. The character of Corporal Louis LeBeau on Hogan’s Heroes was portrayed by him during the 1960s. The show is still popular among viewers and airs regularly as reruns on different channels.
Kim Wright, Clary’s granddaughter, confirmed his death to The Hollywood Reporter.
Clary is not only a Hollywood actor, but he is also a documented Holocaust survivor. He was held in a concentration camp in Europe during World War II, and despite the odds, he survived both the camp and the Nazis. When he was just a sixteen-year-old boy, he and his family were sent to Auschwitz with the intent of being killed. Out of all his relatives, he was the only one that survived and managed to escape from Hitler’s Nazis before they could kill him too in disgustingly inhumane ways.
Clary spent nearly three years of his life in a German concentration camp. His will to live and sheer determination is what led him to survive the tyrannical place while the rest of his family perished.
Hogan’s Heroes was a popular show that aired from September 1965 to April 1971. Clary passed away this November and was the last surviving member of the cast.
Clary not only worked in Hollywood but also had an extensive career on Broadway.
The youngest in a family of fourteen children, Clary was born Robert Max Widerman on March 1, 1926, into an Orthodox Jewish family residing in Paris. At only twelve years old, he started his entertainment career by singing and charming audiences. However, when he turned sixteen, the horrors of WWII caught up to his family, they were killed in Auschwitz’s gas chambers.
“My mother said the most remarkable thing,” he said in 2015. “She said, ‘Behave.’ She probably knew me as a brat. She said, ‘Behave. Do what they tell you to do.’”
Clary said that his talent for entertaining helped him survive the Nazi death camp. Every other week, he would put on a show for the soldiers.
“Singing, entertaining and being in kind of good health at my age, that’s why I survived,” he said.
After Holocaust deniers said that Clary’s family did not die in the gas chambers in Auschwitz, he decided to open up about his experience there.
“For 36 years I kept these experiences during the war locked up inside myself,” Clary stated. “But those who are attempting to deny the Holocaust, my suffering, and the suffering of millions of others have forced me to speak out.”
He refused to let conspiracy theorists and Nazi sympathizers take away from his struggle.
“I had to explain that [Hogan’s Heroes] was about prisoners of war in a stalag, not a concentration camp,” Clary stated. “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.”