Saturday, June 4, 2005


"In portraying Burkhalter, I try always to depict the sort of irritability of a man who realizes he has just swallowed a rotten olive."
- Leon Askin in 1966

Since 'Hogan's Heroes' was set in the Past - more than sixty years ago - there was no way that the character of General Albert Burkhalter could have outlived his portrayer, actor Leon Askin. Askin passed away yesterday in Vienna at the age of 97; had the General still been alive, he would have been at least 158 years old!

Aside from longevity limitations, I think it's unlikely General Burkhalter lived long past the war's end, and it's more than probable that he died before the Nazis surrendered. I think his superiors would have had him executed for failures in connection with Stalag 13.

Just the other day I caught the last half hour of "The Great Escape". (TCM has been saluting the essence of Steve McQueen's cool all week.) And it's strongly suggested that the camp commandant who was in charge at the time of the breakout was being escorted out of camp to face summary execution.

Even though Colonel Wilhelm Klink was in charge of Stalag 13, Burkhalter had ultimate authority. He might have had better luck had he carried out this constant threat to ship Klink off to the Russian front, but since he was responsible for not seeing that directive carried out, then the General had to be held accountable.

Because as the war neared its end, Colonel Hogan and his men would have needed to escalate their activities against the Nazis. And if that meant they would all have to escape, draining the camp of all of its "human resources", then the prisoner of war camp once renowned for never having a single escape would have been rendered a ghost town.

(Musical cue: "It's Draining Men! Olly-Achtung!")

For their own safety, the prisoners would have had to escape before the camp fell into the hands of the Allies. Because once the Nazis began their own version of a bug-out, they would have discovered the listening devices and transmitters, - not to mention the tunnels! - and vengeful retribution would have been swift.

It's Toobworld's theory that Colonel Klink would have escaped execution by "volunteering" to be a guinea pig in a Nazi cryogenic experiment conducted by Professor Amadeus. The plan was to keep Hitler alive in suspended animation until the time was right to bring him forth once more to rule the world (as seen in "The Deadly Game Affair" on 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E.').

But Professor Amadeus first had to be certain that the process worked so he needed to try it out first on someone who was approximately Hitler's age and of similar health. Klink would have qualified for the "honor"; Burkhalter would not. And so Albert Burkhalter would have ended up before a firing squad.
Immortality in Toobworld is usually everlasting fame, not everlasting life. The TV Universe is nothing more than a collection of video memories.

We know that Klink survived the experiment. Professor Amadeus would have had to test the resuscitation process on his frozen corpse first before risking the procedure on Hitler. And that's why we saw Klink, looking no older than he did over twenty years before, hanging out of a window to converse with 'Batman' and Robin as they climbed the side of a Gotham City building.

(More than likely he lived out his years in anonymity in New York City where he hoped to become one of the eight million stories never told. Perhaps he changed his name and passed the bar so that he could practice Law in the city, because there was a defense lawyer on 'Law & Order' who bore a striking resemblance to Klink. He looked just as the former Nazi officer might have looked had he continued aging naturally from 1967 onwards.

That lawyer's name? William Unger. William... Wilhelm...? As for the last name, for all I know he noticed it on a sign advertising a photographer whose specialty was portraits.)

It's interesting to note that Leon Askin lived to be 97, nearly as old as actor Eddie Albert, who passed away last week at the age of 99. This is because both their respective shows, 'Hogan's Heroes' and 'Green Acres' are connected, my TV Universe enthusiast Hugh Davis has pointed out to me:

"As I wrote about when documenting how Gorshin's Riddler could have footprints anywhere, I mentioned a 'Batman' connection to 'Hogan's Heroes', as Col. Klink appeared on that show.

In a flashback episode of 'Green Acres' Oliver is told during WWII that he should look for Col. Hogan if he is taken captive.

These shows are all part of an intricate network."

Indeed they are, and long after they are off the air such shows can resonate throughout others.

"Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee."


"Hey, Lou! He stole your poem!"
Ted Baxter
'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'

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