Askin (September 18, 1907 – June 3, 2005) was an Austrian actor.
Askin was born Leon Aschkenasy into a Jewish family in Vienna, the
son of Malvine (Susman) and Samuel Aschkenazy. Askin already wanted
to be an actor as a child. His dream came true, and in the 1930s he
worked as a cabaret artist and director at the "ABC Theatre"
in Vienna: in this position he also helped the career of the writer
Jura Soyfer get off the ground in 1935. As a highly versatile stage
actor, he was well-known as "the man of a thousand faces."
Persecuted by the Nazis, Askin escaped to the United States via France,
arriving in New York in 1940 with no money and less than a basic knowledge
of English. When the U.S. entered the Second World War Askin joined
the U.S. Army. While serving in the military he learned that his parents
had been killed at Treblinka extermination camp.
After the war, Askin went to Hollywood, invariably portraying foreign
characters who speak English with a strong accent. Fans of the TV
series Adventures of Superman recall his portrayals of an eastern
European diamond smuggler in a black-and-white episode, and as a South
American prime minister in a color episode. He gained wide recognition
and popularity by appearing as the stern General Albert Burkhalter
in the sitcom Hogan's Heroes in the late 1960s.
Though known to audiences primarily for his film and television work,
Askin was extremely active in theater, both as an actor and a director.
As opposed to some other exiled Austrians, Askin never refused to
work again in his home country. In fact, in 1994 he permanently took
up residence in Vienna, where he remained active until his death,
in cabaret as well as the Volksoper and Festwochen. He was awarded
Vienna's Gold Medal of Honor.
Askin died on June 3, 2005 in Vienna. He was 97.