Robert Clary, a Jewish singer and actor who was born in France and survived the Buchenwald concentration camp by singing to SS soldiers on Sundays, has passed away at the age of 96.
Clary was best known for his role on the celebrated TV sitcom Hogan’s Heroes in which he portrayed French Corporal Louis LeBeau who joins Hogan’s Nazi fighting organization of POWs in a Germany camp. LeBeau becomes involved with the group’s spying and sabotage missions.
The actor was born in 1926 in Paris, as the youngest of 14 children. By the age of 12, Clary was a professional singer for a French radio station. But in 1942, he was sent to a concentration camp in Ottmuth, Upper Silesia. Later, he was transferred to the Buchenwald death camp, where he was forced to sing to SS soldiers accompanied by an accordion player every other Sunday in order to survive.
Ten of his siblings perished in the Holocaust.
Upon immigrating to the United State in 1949, he went on to perform in Broadway musicals and then movies. In 1965, Clary married Natalie Cantor, actor Eddie Cantor’s daughter.
Clary spent his later years making appearances in the United States and Canada speaking about the Holocaust. He also made paintings from photos his took while travelling.
In 2001, he released a memoir, From the Holocaust to Hogan's Heroes: The Autobiography of Robert Clary.
Clary died on Wednesday of natural causes at his Los Angeles home.
"He never let those horrors defeat him," Clary’s niece Brenda Hancock told the Associated Press. "He never let them take the joy out of his life. He tried to spread that joy to others through his singing and his dancing and his painting."
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