Robert Clary, a Holocaust survivor best known as the French actor who starred in the CBS-TV series “Hogan’s Heroes,” died at his home in Los Angeles on Nov. 15 at age 96.
Cleary, who played Corporal LeBeaux on the World War II-era sitcom from 1965 to 1971, was the last surviving member of the show’s original principal cast.
Born Robert Max Widerman in Paris on March 1, 1926, Clary was the youngest of 14 children born to Orthodox Jewish parents. At age 16, he and most of his family were rounded up by the French police and sent to Auschwitz, where his parents were immediately sent to the gas chamber.
Clary was incarcerated at Buchenwald for 31 months, where he made wooden shoe heels in a factory.
“Singing, entertaining and being in kind of good health at my age, that’s why I survived,” he said of singing with an accordionist every other Sunday for SS soldiers at Buchenwald.
A documentary about his life, “Robert Clary, A5714: A Memoir of Liberation,” was released in 1985. He spent much time touring Canada and the United States, speaking about the Holocaust.
Clary was married to his mentor Eddie Cantor’s daughter Natalie for 32 years. She died in 1997. He had no children.
In May 1945, Clary returned to France and sang in dance halls. Four years later, he headed to Los Angeles to record for Capitol Records and, in 1950, he appeared in a French comedy skit on a CBS variety show hosted by comedian Ed Wynn.
His film credits include “Ten Tall Men” (1951) and “Thief of Damascus” (1952). Clary also performed on Broadway in “New Faces of 1952” and “Seventh Heaven” in 1955 and appeared on several TV soap operas.