The following image has appeared in the progressive blog Political Carnival:
For those of you too young to recognize the reference, “I know nothing” was the catchphrase of Sergeant Schultz, an ever-beleaguered and regularly manipulated camp guard at Stalag 13, the setting of the television sit-com Hogan’s Heroes. An almost burlesque adaptation of the Stalag 17, a film about American prisoners of war during the Second World War, Hogan’s Heroes featured Bob Crane as Colonel Robert Hogan, who directed espionage and sabotage operations right under the noses of the Germans who ostensibly ran the camp. The monocle-wearing camp commandant, Colonel Klink, was particularly hapless. Interesting, all of the major German roles in the series were played by Jewish actors, and Werner Klemperer who played Klink had previously portrayed much more sinister Nazis in a number of feature films, including Judgment at Nuremberg. Hogan’s Heroes was a popular series and ran for six seasons, from 1965 to 1971. Crane was nominated twice for Emmy Awards as the best lead actor in a comedy series. But after the series ended, his only successes came in dinner theater, and seven years later, in 1978, he was found bludgeoned to death in his apartment. His brutal murder remains one of the most notorious unsolved murders in Hollywood history.
But that is a very dark note on which to end what began as a comically satiric post. So I will close with what, I hope, is at the very least a lighter, if not a humorous, personal anecdote loosely related to the series. One of my uncles, who fought in Europe from Omaha Beach to the Elbe and received four purple hearts in the process, was the first person in our extended family to own a color television set. One Sunday night, we drove to his house to watch The Wonderful World of Disney in color. Ironically, the show that night involved a lot of skiing. But I do remember that the mountainsides of pristine snow were much more vivid than snow ever looked on our black and white television–that even the whiteness was absolutely mesmerizing.
After that show was over, Hogan’s Heroes came on. My uncle said in disgust, “Change the fucking channel. . . . If they were so fucking stupid, how did they kill and maim so many of us.” It was the first time that I had ever heard an adult use the “f-word,” and to my secret delight, it had happened twice in the space of just a few seconds. I remember wondering whether my mother, who was in the kitchen, had heard what my uncle had said. I knew that she would have been as unhappy about it as I was delighted by it. My uncle was a real hard case, but my mother was very formidable in her own way and not especially impressed by or intimidated by men who were hard cases.