Hogan’s Heroes: The Germans

We talked about the heroes on Hogan’s Heroes last time, so let’s talk about the Germans. These are the primary ones, the ones who show up in most or all episodes. There are plenty more, and we’ll talk about them as we go through the episodes.

(Sorry for the delay. I had hoped to have this out a couple of weeks ago…)

Werner Klemperer as Col. Wilhelm Klink. Source: sitcomsonline.com

Colonel Wilhelm Klink (played by Werner Klemperer) is the Kommandant of Stalag 13. Klink is from a Prussian aristocratic family and is a career officer in the Luftwaffe. He graduated 95th in his class of 100 from officer training and, despite being in the Luftwaffe, is afraid to fly. As such, when the war broke out, they had to find a place for him, and that place was Stalag 13. He’s a mediocre administrator who is always behind on his paperwork, mostly because he’s constantly being interrupted by Col. Hogan, Sgt. Schultz, or by other officers, members of the Gestapo, or General Burkhalter, his superior officer, who have come to see him. He’s obsequious with most of the Germans, particularly Burkhalter, whose visits he treats like a social call (and a good excuse for a few glasses of schnapps). Because the Allies will not bomb a prison camp, Klink is often ordered to accommodate visiting scientists and other VIP’s. Frequently the Germans will hold strategy meetings at Stalag 13, and Klink is always trying to be asked to attend them, which of course he isn’t.

Klink is insanely proud that "there has never been a successful escape from Stalag 13," and tells anyone and everyone, whether they care or not. Naturally, the reason is that Hogan, who uses Stalag 13 as his base of operations, forbids it, lest the Gestapo start tearing apart the camp and figure out what’s going on.

He sees his position as an excuse to live the high life, and spends much of the camp’s budget on champagne, caviar, cigars, fine wine, gourmet meals, and gifts for women. The one thing he seems to be good at is creative accounting.

He believes that he’s God’s gift to women, and often asks Hogan "Why must I be so attractive to women?" He also believes that he’s a great violinist, despite the fact he plays like an advanced beginner, at best. (Werner Klemperer, who plays Klink, was in fact a very good violinist, whose father was the orchestra conductor Otto Klemperer. It takes a great player to play as badly as he does.) He also believes that he’ll be promoted to general someday, despite the fact that he’s in over his head as a colonel. He believes these things because Hogan has planted them in his brain.

John Banner as Sgt. Hans Schultz. Source:sitcomsonline.com

Sgt. Hans Schultz is Sergeant of the Guard at Stalag 13. A decorated veteran of World War I, he was content running the Schatzi Toy Company until the Third Reich took it over and conscripted him back into the Luftwaffe. He was reunited with Col. Klink, to whom he was assigned in WWI, at Stalag 13. He’s not that fond of Klink, who he calls the "Big Shot," though he shows the Kommandant basic military courtesy. Klink in turn regularly threatens to send him to the Eastern Front.

Schultz carries a rifle while on duty, although it isn’t loaded. On occasion, he’ll hand it to one of the prisoners, who then has to remind him to take it back. Frequently, while watching the prisoners, he’ll find a place to sit and go to sleep.

He’s obese, lazy, and not very bright. His weaknesses are food and gambling. Hogan is able to get information out of him by bribing him with candy bars from the Red Cross packages, or by sending LeBeau, who brings him potato pancakes or his favorite, strudel, or by loaning him money when he’s in a losing streak at the poker table (which Newkirk makes sure of). When LeBeau is cooking a gourmet dinner for one of Klink’s dinner parties, Schultz stays in the kitchen, ostensibly to guard the prisoner, but more so that he can get samples of whatever’s on the menu for the night. (Often, he eats better than the guests.) Klink using him as a food taster is a convenient excuse for him to gorge himself. When he finds himself alone in the Kommandant’s office, he helps himself to schnapps and cigars.

Schultz is probably best known for his catchphrase, "I know NOTHING!" He occasionally gets a glimpse of what goes on behind the Kommandant’s (and the Gestapo’s, and his own) back, and feels it necessary to report it to Klink, only to be convinced by Hogan that reporting him will actually cause him more grief than he bargained for. On numerous occasions he’s seen Hogan with one or more of his men at the Hofbrau and sworn to report them, at which point Hogan reminds him that they managed to escape while he was allegedly watching them and that reporting them might land him on an eastbound train. Schultz will then go into his denial, "I see nothing, I hear nothing, I know NOTHING!"

Leon Askin as General Albert Burkhalter (sitcomsonline.com)

In the pilot episode, he was Colonel Burkhalter, after which he was General Burkhalter, probably to make Klink’s brown-nosing a little more understandable. Burkhalter is Klink’s commanding officer, based in Berlin but with frequent trips to Stalag 13. (In real life, Hammelburg, the closest town to the camp, is a 5 hour drive from Berlin. Sitcom geography isn’t always accurate.) He is responsible for all Luftwaffe prisoner-of-war camps in Germany and can’t fathom why a lousy officer like Klink can somehow have a near-perfect record of no escapes. When Klink starts bloviating and boasting to someone Burkhalter has brought to Stalag 13, he’ll usually say "Klink…shut up and listen." He reluctantly assigns tasks to Klink, knowing that Klink will find a way to screw them up. He’s married but isn’t a fanatic about it, and frequently flirts with young women, particularly Klink’s secretaries or women Klink is entertaining. He feels responsible for his sister Gertrude (Frau Linkmeyer), whose husband is "missing in action" (i.e. permanently) on the Eastern Front, and tries to marry her off to Klink.

Cynthia Lynn (with Bob Crane) as Helga
Sigrid Valdis as Hilda

Fräuleins Helga and Hilda are Klink’s secretaries. (Helga was his secretary in the first season, Hilda in seasons 2-6.) Both are young and attractive blue-eyed blondes and get a lot of attention from the generals who come to see Klink, and both have a thing going with Hogan. While not directly involved with Hogan’s operation, they do provide information on what Klink is up to, and will occasionally intercept correspondence and pass it along to Hogan, or add a forged bit of correspondence from Hogan in the kommandant’s mail. In the pilot episode, Helga is seen giving an escaped prisoner a manicure in the tunnel while he gets a shave, but that’s the only time we’ve seen either of them take an active role with the escape operation.

This is enough to get us started with discussing the episodes…

12 thoughts on “Hogan’s Heroes: The Germans

  1. Yes, Werner was a good violinist and a great lover of classical music. His dad is legendary in his field. It always seemed that Werner was gentle, educated..the opposite of Klink and he is my fav. Schultz is a fat teddy bear who just wants to have his toy shop back. I always wanted Burkhalter end up at the Eastern Front. I think both actresses who played the secretary were lovers of Bob Crane.

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    1. Crane married Sigrid Valdis, that’s for certain, and I wouldn’t doubt that he and Cynthia Lynn had something going.

      I read somewhere that had it shown what happened after the war, Burkhalter would have faced the firing squad, simply because many of the generals did. I always wonder what things would have been like for everyone after the war, especially what Klink’s and Schultz’s reaction would have been upon seeing the inner workings of Hogan’s organization, especially the tunnels. I’d hate to think that Klink would have put a bullet in his head when he saw what an incompetent fool he had been. Or maybe he’d laugh it off, or punch Hogan in the nose. Or punch Schultz, who saw plenty while saying he saw nothing.

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      1. Klink would never kill himself. He would turn things around saying he always knew it was there and was secretly helping Hogan. He would end up working in some office still bossing people around who don’t listen to him. Schultz would restart his toystore again and be successful. Burkhalter would end up in South America.

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        1. That would be an interesting twist, for Klink to say that he was on the side of the Allies and was actually abetting them, even going so far as to tell his colleagues who wanted to escape to “see Hogan.”

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  2. The more I watched the more I remember watching as a kid but a lot of it was over my head then as I remembered no plots…only Hogan, Klink, and Schultz…and Richard Dawson because of Match Game.
    I’m ready…I’m going to watch a few more this weekend.

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