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Werner Klemperer (March 22, 1920 – December 6, 2000) was a comedic actor, best known for his role as Colonel Klink on the CBS television sitcom, Hogan's Heroes.

Early life

Born in Cologne to a musical family, Klemperer was the son of the renowned conductor Otto Klemperer and Johanna Geisler, a soprano. Klemperer was musically talented, being a violinist and an accomplished concert pianist. He broadened his acting career by performing as an operatic baritone and a singer in Broadwaymarker musicals. He can be seen playing in the violin section of the New Philharmonia Orchestra on the EMI Classics DVD "Otto Klemperer — Beethoven Symphony No. 9." at a concert performed on November 8, 1964, at London's Royal Albert Hallmarker.

His father being Jewish, Klemperer fled the Nazis with his family in 1935; they made their way to Los Angeles, where his father had a conducting post. Klemperer began acting in high school and enrolled in acting courses in Pasadenamarker before joining the United States Army to fight in World War II.

While stationed in Hawaii, he joined the Army's Special Services unit, spending the next years touring the Pacific entertaining the troops. At the end of the war, he worked on Broadway before moving into television.


Klemperer's first major film role was as a psychiatrist in Alfred Hitchcock's The Wrong Man (1956). He then received significant notice for his role in the award winning 1961 film Judgment at Nuremberg. The film presents a fictionalized account of the post-World War II Nuremberg Trialsmarker, with Klemperer portraying Emil Hahn, a Nazi judge and one of the defendants at the trial. Prior to this, he had a small role in the 1957 Errol Flynn film Istanbul and a pivotal part in the "Comstock Conspiracy" episode of Maverick that same year. He played the title role in the film Operation Eichmann. He guest starred in the first Brian Keith television series, Crusader, a Cold War drama which aired on CBS.

Prior to Hogan's Heroes, Klemperer appeared twice as Hugo on the syndicated romantic comedy series, How to Marry a Millionaire (1957-1959), with Barbara Eden and Merry Anders. He is best known, however, as Colonel Wilhelm Klink: the bumbling, cowardly and self-serving Commandant of Stalag 13 on Hogan's Heroes, which aired from 1965-1971. Klemperer, conscious that he would be playing the role of a German officer during the Nazi regime, agreed to the part only on the condition that Klink would be portrayed as a fool who never succeeded. When Klemperer's father, the famous conductor, saw his first episode of Hogan's Heroes, he said to his son, "Your work is good . . . but who is the author of this material?" In addition to the character's bumblings, Klink was also remembered for his horribly screechy violin playing, spoofing Klemperer's talent for the violin. For his performance as Klink, Klemperer received six Emmy Award nominations for best supporting actor, winning in 1968, and again in 1969. It was on the set of Hogan's Heroes that he met his second wife, actress Louise Troy, who was making a guest appearance. They fell in love and married in 1969, but divorced in 1975.

He appeared in character and costume as Klink in a "Batclimb cameo" on the 1960s Batman television series and as Officer Bolix in the Lost in Space episode "All That Glitters" in 1966.

Between 1970 and 1978, Klemperer owned a Mercedes-Benz 6.9 V8. When parked on the set of Hogan's Heroes, his co-star Bob Crane joked about it being "The Colonel's staff car". After Crane's murder, Werner sold the car because it brought back too many memories of his friend.

Later career

After his father’s death in 1973, Klemperer expanded his acting career with musical roles in opera and Broadway musicals. He earned a Tony Award nomination for his performance in Cabaret in its 1987 Broadway revival. A member of the Board of Directors of the New York Chamber Symphony, Klemperer served as a narrator with many other American symphony orchestras. He also made occasional guest appearances on television dramas, and took part in a few studio recordings, notably a version of Arnold Schönberg's Gurrelieder in 1979. In 1981, he appeared, to critical and audience raves, as Prince Orlofsky in Seattle Opera's production of Die Fledermaus. In 1992, he made a guest appearance in an episode of Law & Order, "Starstruck," as the father of a murder suspect.

In 1993, Klemperer reprised the role of Klink in an episode of The Simpsons as Homer's guardian angel and spirit guide in the episode "The Last Temptation of Homer" (episode # 5.9). According to the episode's DVD commentary, when Klemperer appeared, he had to be given a quick reminder of how to play Colonel Klink.

In 1997, Klemperer married his third wife, African-American television actress Kim Hamilton. On December 6, 2000, Klemperer died of cancer in New Yorkmarker. His ashes were scattered at sea.

For many years, Klemperer was an elected member of the council of Actors' Equity Association, and was a vice president of the union at the time of his death.



  1. Weinraub, Bernard "Werner Klemperer, Klink in 'Hogan's Heroes,' Dies at 80" New York Times (8 December 2000)
  2. Klemperer was a cousin of Victor Klemperer.
  3. Erickson, Hal "Werner Klemperer" (Allmovie biography)
  4. Woo, Elaine "Werner Klemperer; Played Col. Klink in ‘Hogan’s Heroes’" Los Angeles Times (8 December 2008)

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