‘Hogan’s Heroes’ Was Based on Real POW Camp and German Town of Hammelburg

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

“Hogan’s Heroes” was the longest-running American series based on war. It lasted so long because it contained something for just about everyone. The show had comedy, war, and espionage. At the same time, showed the Nazi forces to be inept and the butt of several jokes. What more could you ask for in a series about a WWII POW camp? How about a little realism? Well, the show had a healthy dose of realism lurking just under the surface.

“Hogan’s Heroes” took place in the German POW camp called Stalag 13. That camp wasn’t far from the town of Hammelburg in the show. In real life, Stalag XIII C was a POW camp on the outskirts of Hammelburg. So, not only was it a great show with a catchy theme song, but it was also very loosely based on a real place and actual people.

The Real-Life Men of “Hogan’s Heroes”

The producers of “Hogan’s Heroes” snuck in a few real-life details while creating the show. Not only did it make things feel more real but it also helped to pay tribute to the soldiers who spent time in Stalag XIII C. “The Twin Cities Pioneer Press” ran a piece discussing the similarities between the show’s settings and characters and their real-life counterparts.

In “Hogan’s Heroes,” Colonel Klink ran the prison camp. He was an inept officer who is completely unaware of Hogan’s operations. He believed that his camp had a perfect escape record. Klink’s real-life counterpart was General Gunther von Goeckel. The Nazis pushed the aging general back into military service in the latter years of WWII.

At the same time, Colonel Hogan, the leader of the allied prisoners in “Hogan’s Heroes,” was based on an American colonel. His name was actually Paul Goode. The Germans captured Goode in Normandy. He organized the prisoners in Stalag XIII C. In fact, the colonel impressed the German General with the way he organized the allied troops there. He actually took Goode along with him on trips to Hammelburg, according to the “Twin Cities Pioneer Press.”

In “Hogan’s Heroes,” Sergeant Schultz was an inept guard. However, he was good to the Allies. He knew that reporting any of their escapades could land him in hot water with the colonel. Klink was proud of his camp’s perfect record. So, anything to the contrary would look bad on Schultz. In real life, this was an older camp guard named Ostertag. The Allied prisoners at the camp would bust his chops by beating on his window and yelling that Patton’s tanks were coming.

Other parts of “Hogan’s Heroes” were true to life as well. For instance, prisoners at Stalag XIII C actually maintained a secret radio in hopes of contacting Allied Forces.

Stalag XIII C

The real Stalag 13 was actually called Stalag XIII C. This POW camp was situated in the southern portion of Lager Hammelburg or Camp Hammelburg. It held prisoners of war in both WWI and WWII. The camp still stands. However, its history as a POW camp is largely ignored by Germans today.

Allied Forces liberated Lager Hammelburg in 1945 when Patton’s tanks actually did toll into the camp. The Allies took Lager Hammelburg without a fight. Later, American forces occupied the camp and used it to hold former members of the Nazi Party.