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Werner Klemperer


Werner Klemperer was a classically-trained actor who played Colonel Wilhelm Klink in the TV series Hogan's Heroes, winning two Emmys for the role. Hogan's Heroes was loosely based on Billy Wilder's 1953 movie Stalag 17 and ran from 1965 to 1971. Klemperer, citing his Jewish heritage, was sensitive to criticism from those who thought that comedy set in a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp was tasteless, and only agreed to play Klink if he could portray him as a fool who lived in terror of his superiors and was constantly outwitted by the prisoners.

Photo of Klemperer with Crane and Banner Klemperer appears as Klink on the right in this publicity photo. Bob Crane (center) played Col. Hogan and John Banner (left) played Sgt. Schultz.

Klemperer was born in Cologne, Germany on 22 March, 1920. He was the son of noted German conductor Otto Klemperer who fled Germany with his family in 1935, two years after Adolf Hitler came to power. Werner made his stage debut in the 1940 production of 'The Trojan Horse' opposite Jeff Chandler and then served in the U.S. Army during World War II. After his discharge, he made his Broadway debut in 'Heads or Tails' (1947) and was featured with Tallulah Bankhead in 'Dear Charles' (1955). While continuing his work as a stage actor, Klemperer also appeared in a number of movies, most notably in Stanley Kramer's 1961 film 'Judgment at Nuremberg'. Klemperer also appeared in 'Houseboat' (1958), 'Youngblood Hawk' (1964), and 'Ship of Fools' (1965). He was then cast as Col. Klink in 1965 and, in the years after the cancellation of Hogan's Heroes, continued to work steadily, notably as a conductor and as a narrator with many major U.S. symphony orchestras. He was an accomplished concert violinist. Klemperer died on December 7, 2000 in New York. He was 80.