It was a great pleasure to meet Robert Clary at the Hollywood Show on October 19th. Robert is, of course, best known for his portrayal for his portrayal as Corporal Louis LeBeau in Hogan's Heroes but he has led a remarkable life with many different facets. The tattoo on his left forearm, "A5714," is an indelible reminder of his two and a half years in a German concentration camp during WWII and it is ironic that he became famous for his role in a series that parodied the Germans in Hogans Heroes.
I asked him about the irony of experiencing the horrors of a German concentration camp while years later appearing in a TV series that ridiculed the Nazis. He said "You have to understand that there is a distinction between a concentation camp and a Prisoner of War camp". Despite the differences, Hogan's Heroes managed to glamorise the Prisoner of War camp whilst making fun of the Germans. It was also ironic that John Banner who played Sergeant Schulz in Hogan's Heroes also survived the concentration camps in Germany.
Robert Clary remained friends with Werner Klemperer who played Colonel Klink up until Klemperers death in 2000. Although Klemperer played the bungling German Colonel, he actually served in the US Army during World War II.
Sadly, Robert lost many family members during World War II "The whole experience was a complete nightmare, the way they treated us, what we had to do to survive. We were less than animals. Sometimes I dream about those days. I wake up in a sweat terrified for fear I'm about to be sent away to a concentration camp. But I don't hold a grudge because that's a great waste of time. Yes, there's something dark in the human soul. For the most part human beings are not very nice. That's why when you find those who are, you cherish them."
Robert Clary has written about his amazing life in his autobiography "From Holocaust to Hogan's Heroes". It is a fascinating read and shows the many different facets of his life. He began singing professionally at the age of 12 and moved to the US in 1949 where he found work in nightclubs and later made a name for himself in the Broadway show "New Faces of 1952."
Robert's father-in-law was the legendary Eddie Cantor and his nephew, Broadway composer Brian Gari. Brian was also at the Hollywood Show with his uncle.
In 1952, Robert starred in The Thief of Damascus with Paul Henreid. Robert played Aladdin and he signed an Australian Daybill for me from that film along with a copy of his book.
I understand that this will be Robert's last appearance at the Hollywood Show. I would highly recommend his book to all.