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John Banner (January 28, 1910–January 28, 1973) was a Jewish Austrian actor. Ironically, he is best known for his role as a World War II German soldier, the comedic Sgt. Hans Schultz on the television situation comedy Hogan's Heroes. Schultz was constantly encountering evidence that the inmates of his Stalag prison camp were planning mayhem, and he was aware that he would be better off if he pretended ignorance: thus his constant catch phrase "I know nothing! Nothing!" One episode of Hogan's Heroes is titled "At Last: Schultz Knows Something."

Early years

Banner was born in Vienna, Austria. Because of his Jewish heritage, he was transported to a concentration camp before being released out of occupied Germany. Fortunately for him, Banner's time in the concentration camp was during the early stages of Nazi rule, when Jewish extermination policies were not yet fully implemented.

In 1938, Banner, a trim 180 pounds, worked with an acting troupe in Switzerland and found he could not return to his native Austria because he was a Jew. He went to America and though unable to speak a word of English was hired as a Master of Ceremonies. Banner learned his words phonetically and soon mastered the English language.

Before Banner came to acting, he studied law for two semesters. His feature film credits include over 40 films and his first was Pacific Blackout. He was usually cast as a Nazi spy because of his accent and teutonic features. This was especially hard for Banner whose family had been wiped out in Nazi Concentration Camps.

1950s and Hogan's Heroes

In the 1950's Banner's weight had gone up to 280 pounds, and he made over 70 television appearances in the next two decades, including Mr. Ed, The Lucy Show, Perry Mason, The Partridge Family, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (The Neptune Affair 1964). In 1954 he played Bavarro in the Rocky Jones, Space Ranger series. Banner had previously played other Germans, Rudolph Hess in Operation Eichmann (1961) and Gregor Strasser in Hitler in 1962. He also had a small role in a color episode of Adventures of Superman, playing a somewhat hapless character that to some extent anticipated his Sgt. Schultz characterization. Banner was loved by all the cast of Hogan's Heroes (as told by those still alive on the recently issued DVD sets) and without effort became the main character of every scene he played in. He told TV Guide in 1967, "Schultz is not a Nazi. I see Schultz as the representative of some kind of goodness in any generation."

Death

Banner died of an abdominal hemorrhage on his 63rd birthday in Vienna in 1973. He was buried at the cemetery in Mauer in Liesing, the 23rd Bezirk of Vienna. His grave can be found under Gruppe 57 Reihe 2 Nummer 26.

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