Hogans Heroes practiced diversity in the 1960s

Cheryl E Preston

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Hogans diverse heroesCBS screenshot via Hubpages

Diversity when it wasn't cool

Hogans Heroes premiered on CBS in September of 1965 and immediately became a top 10 hit. The series cast was pretty diverse considering it was the 1960s when racial tensions were high.. The star Bob Crane (whose sir name is Irish) portrayed American Air Force Colonel Robert Hogan who was the leader of a group of POWs (Prisoners of War) who were stationed at German prison camp Stalag 13. His band of merry men came from varied ethnic backgrounds.

African American Ivan Dixon was United States Army Air Corps Staff Sergeant James "Kinch" Kinschlow who left the series at the end of season five. Dixon is alleged to have said that he left the series because his talents were not really utilized and he did not feel challenged as a black actor. He was replaced by African American Kenneth Washington, who played Sergeant Richard Baker. Richard Dawson who was British portrayed United Kingdom Royal Air Force Corporal Peter Newkirk. Robert Clary who was French and Jewish was Corporal Louis LeBeau of the Free French Air Force and had spent time in a concentration camp. Larry Hovis was United States Army Air Corps Technical Sergeant Andrew J. Carter.

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Hilda on Hogans HeroesCBS screenshot via Hubpages

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Helga Hogans HeroesCBS screenshot via Hubpages

Helga and Hilda

The character of Fräulein Helga was German but was portrayed by Cynthia Lynn who was born in Latvia and fled to America as a child with her mother. Lynn was only in the role during the first season as the secretary of Colonel Klink. She left the show and was replaced during seasons 2-6 with American actress Sigrid Valdis who portrayed Fraulein Hilda and who later married Bob Crane.

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Jewish Nazis on Hogans HeroesCBS screenshot via Hubpages

Jews portrayed Nazis

John Banner an Austrian Jew was asked about portraying Sargent Hans Shultz and how he could do such a thing. He replied that he saw his character as being a good guy. Viewers loved Shultz who turned a blind eye to the schemes of Hogan and his Heroes with his signature line "I know nothing, I know nothing." There were a few people who protested the series during the first season but once Banner stood up for his role and how the show brought humor out of the tragedy of the Holocaust the protesters ceased.

Banner and Clary were not the only Jewish actors on the show as four other cast members were Jews and yet they portrayed Natzi Germans. Werner Klemperer portrayed Corporal Klink, Leon Askin played General Burkhalter, and Howard Caine was General Hochstetter. Caine was the only one of the actors who had not fled the Nazis during WWII.

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Jews portrayed Germans on Hogans HeroesCBS screenshot via Hubpages

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Seargeant ShultzCBS screenshot via Hubpages

It's only acting

When Klemperer was asked about being Jewish and portraying a German who served Hitler he replied "I am an actor. If I can play Richard III, I can play a Nazi." He pointed out that Hogan always won over those who held him in captivity. Clary said the following about the sitcom: "We are actors," "Are we going to say no to a part that gives us money every week, especially if the part is good? It's a tough business." Hogan's Heroes offered diversity in television before it was the right thing to do and many who watched were probably unaware.

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I write, about breaking news, and current events. I wrote a newspaper column from 1997 to 2007 and have written for various online platforms since 2012 including Yahoo Contributor Network, Hubpages, and Vocal Media.

Roanoke, VA
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