Robert Clary, Holocaust Survivor and 'Hogan's Heroes' Star, Dead at 96

Robert Clary, best known as Corporal LeBeau on the classic World War II sitcom Hogan's Heroes, is dead at 96. Clary's death was confirmed by The Hollywood Reporter after reaching out to granddaughter Kim Wright.

Clary was a favorite in the series that was set in a German POW camp, playing a French POW that was a member of an Allied sabotage unit within the camp. According to Deadline, Hogan's Heroes was a surprising hit that lasted a long time in its initial run, from 1965-1971, and then much more in syndication. It was a series that seemed to set the stage for something like MASH, but without the melodrama that would be tough to pull off with Nazis all around.

Clary was one of two surviving members of the cast, with Kenneth Washington remaining after this sad news. But beyond television, Clary's story is an eye-opener and memorable on its own. He was a survivor of the Holocaust and the youngest of his Jewish family in Paris, France. He was born in 1926, the last of 14 children, and ended up sent to a Nazi concentration camp in Ottmuth, Poland in 1942. He was later transferred to Germany's Buchenwald camp, where his singing skills played to his favor as he'd perform for SS soldiers every other Sunday and had performed on the radio before being imprisoned.

"Singing, entertaining, and being in kind of good health at my age, that's why I survived," Clary recalled. "I was very immature and young and not really fully realizing what situation I was involved with ... I don't know if I would have survived if I really knew that."

Many other members of Clary's family were not as lucky, with a dozen of his family perishing in Auschwitz during the war. His parents were sadly included in the grim total. He was liberated in April 1945, later learning three of his siblings were still in occupied France and survived the war. He made clear in a later interview that none of it came into play with his Hogan's Heroes role.

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"No, because it was completely different. If I wanted to bring [to my] character what it was like it would have been desperate," Clary said about his life experience and the show. "Stalag 13 is not a concentration camp. It's a POW camp, and that's a world of difference. You never heard of a prisoner of war being gassed or hanged."

Clary continued in entertainment after the war, returning to singing around the globe before moving to the U.S. in 1949, marrying singer Edie Cantor's daughter, Natalie Cantor Metzger. After landing in the U.S., he appeared on Broadway and had roles in soap operas like Days of Our Lives, The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful. He also toured and performed, speaking on the Holocaust around Canada and the United States.