Werner Klemperer, the character actor whose greatest success came in the role of Col. Klink, the German prison camp commandant of TV's "Hogan's Heroes," died Wednesday at his New York home after a six-month battle with cancer. He was 80.
Klemperer won two Emmys for his portrayal of the inept but perversely likable Nazi in the show that was a first for television: a sitcom set in a Nazi POW camp. The CBS series ran for six seasons beginning in 1965. It still appears in re-runs around the world, including Germany where it is a cult hit.
The actor was the son of the former Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor Otto Klemperer, who fled Adolf Hitler's Germany with his family in the mid-1930s and settled in California. The younger Klemperer never was bothered by the irony of a Jew playing a Nazi, describing his portrayal of Klink as "just another acting assignment," albeit one that made him famous.
Although the bumbling Klink was his most identifiable role, Klemperer had a varied career on stage, including a featured role as Jewish shopkeeper Herr Schultz in the 1987 Broadway revival of "'Cabaret" for which he received a Tony nomination.
After the prime-time run of "Hogan's Heroes" ended in 1971, he began a second career as an orchestral narrator, working with all of the leading American orchestras on works ranging from "Peter and the Wolf" to Igor Stravinsky's "Oedipus Rex."
Klemperer, is survived by his wife, Kim Hamilton Klemperer; a daughter, Dr. Erika Klemperer Webster, of San Francisco; a son, Mark, of New York; and a sister, Lotte Klemperer, of Zurich, Switzerland.
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