Chris Pizzello / Invision / AP
Friday, Feb. 28, 2014 | 11:54 a.m.
LOS ANGELES — Robert Clary of "Hogan's Heroes" fame said he will be celebrating his 88th birthday this weekend simply, at a dinner out with friends, and with gratitude for his long life.
"Every day I wake up is a birthday," said Clary, who as a Jewish French teenager survived the Nazi Holocaust that claimed 12 family members, including his parents.
He's resisted bitterness, he said: "You learn from the bad things and you learn from the good things."
Clary has been off the screen for more than a decade, staying busy with his family, his hobby of painting and regular gym workouts.
"The only thing I really miss tremendously, I lost my wife. But that is part of life, unfortunately," Clary said. He was married to Natalie Cantor, the daughter of singer-actor Eddie Cantor, for more than 30 years.
TV viewers still recognize Clary as Cpl. Louis LeBeau from the 1965-71 sitcom improbably set in a World War II prisoner-of-war camp. He also sang in clubs, recorded pop songs and standards and performed in musical theater.
A voting member of the motion picture academy, Clary said his top picks for Sunday's Oscars are Meryl Streep ("August: Osage County") and Leonardo DiCaprio ("The Wolf of Wall Street").
"I don't care how many Oscars she (Streep) has won. If she's brilliant, she's brilliant. She deserves to win one more," said Clary, sounding very much like the feisty POW LeBeau.
After "Hogan's Heroes," his TV work included the soap operas "The Young and the Restless," ''Days of Our Lives" and "The Bold and the Beautiful."
Clary remained publicly silent about his wartime experience until the early 1980s when, he said, he was provoked to speak by those who denied or diminished the orchestrated effort by German leader Adolph Hitler's government to exterminate Jews.
Since then, he's appeared in a documentary and written an autobiography, "From the Holocaust to Hogan's Heroes," to document his experience.