Holocaust survivor and actor Robert Clary passed away on Wednesday morning at his Los Angeles home, his former manager David Martin confirmed to Entertainment Weekly. He was best known for his part in the World War II-themed sitcom Hogan’s Heroes.
Martin states, “Robert’s passing is unfortunate. He retired from acting several years ago, so there was no reason to continue our 20-plus years-long managerial relationship. Robert was an amazing gentleman and incredibly talented, not just as an actor but also as a performer and a gifted painter. He was one of my favorite people represented. Now he can be reunited with Natalie, the love of his life.”
Natalie Cantor Metzger, Clary’s wife, passed away in 1997.
Clary’s granddaughter Kim Wright was the first to confirm the information to The Hollywood Reporter. There was no mention of a cause of death.
One of the final cast members of Hogan’s Heroes, which ran on CBS for more than six seasons beginning in 1965, was Clary. The movie featured Bob Crane as Col. Robert E. Hogan, an American who led a team of Allied prisoners of war from the Luft Stalag 13 POW camp to victory over the Nazis. Cpl. Louis LeBeau, a French gourmet chef who educated the guard canines to be amiable toward the prisoners, was represented by Clary.
Robert Max Widerman became Clary on March 1st, 1926, in Paris. He and his family were brought to Auschwitz concentration camp by the Nazis when he was 16 years old.
Clary discussed this encounter with THR in 2015. When the Germans conquered France, “our lives altered,” he claimed. “It was like day and night. We Jews were suddenly required to register as Jews, wear a yellow Star of David on our clothing, refrain from working in the entertainment industry, and avoid being outside after 8 p.m. for fear of being detained and taken elsewhere. We were ignorant about [the] extermination camps, which was the only thing.”
Clary’s parents were killed in Auschwitz’s gas chambers. The last words of Clary’s mother were as follows: “My mum stated the most amazing thing. Behave, she said. She likely thought of me as a brat. Behave, she commanded. Follow their instructions.”
Clary claimed that amusement had rescued him. After being taken to Buchenwald, a concentration camp, he started acting on stage there. After Buchenwald was liberated in 1945, he promised to become an entertainer, and his ambition came true. Clary served 31 months in prison.
In 1948, the future Hollywood star made his first song recordings in France. A year later, he relocated there to record music for Capitol Records. He made one of his first on-screen appearances in a segment from The Ed Wynn Show. He would appear in several television series and perform on Broadway.
The role that made Clary famous was in Hogan’s Heroes. “I had to explain that [Hogan’s Heroes] was about prisoners of war in a stalag, not a concentration camp, 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,” he wrote of the program in his memoir From the Holocaust to Hogan’s Heroes, published in 2001.
The Bold and the Beautiful, Days of Our Lives, General Hospital, The Young and the Restless, The Hindenburg, and Fantasy Island would all include Clary.