Actor Curt Lowens, a Holocaust survivor and World War II hero, has died. He was 91.
Lowens fell recently and was taken to a rehabilitation center in Beverly Hills, California, where he died on May 8, notes The Hollywood Reporter.
Born Curt Loewenstein in 1925, his family fled Nazi Germany in 1940, with plans to emigrate to the United States by way of the Netherlands. However, while waiting to depart from Rotterdam, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, and his family eventually went into hiding.
Curt joined the Dutch resistance where he worked with a network of Dutch rescuers who aided Jewish children in hiding. He also helped rescue two downed U.S. Army Air Corps flyers, for which he later received a commendation from Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.
After liberation, he joined the British Eighth Corps as an interpreter, assisting in the May 1945 arrest of the remaining Nazi leaders in Germany.
In 1947, he emigrated to the U.S. with his family. He studied acting at the Herbert Berghof Studio in New York, adopting the stage name Curt Lowens.
He specialized in playing Nazis, beginning with the original 1951 Broadway production of “Stalag 17,” in which he played an SS guard. Also on Broadway, he portrayed Dr. Josef Mengele in “The Deputy.” In the 1960s, he famously portrayed a Gestapo captain on the popular television sitcom “Hogan’s Heroes,” and in the 1970s he was an SS general on “Wonder Woman.”
“Curt Lowens was a remarkable man in all regards,” said Wolf Gruner, director of USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research. “Most impressive for me and my USC students was the fact that during the Second World War as a German Jew in hiding, he tirelessly worked to rescue other fellow Jews with help from the Dutch resistance. Moreover, he even saved two U.S. airmen whom the Germans had shot down in the Netherlands. As a macabre irony of his life it turned out that later in Hollywood he, a Holocaust survivor, had to play all these Nazi movie characters.”
He has more than 100 acting credits on the stage, screen and television, according to IMDb.
“Curt Lowens was a man who exemplified heroism at a time when heroes were in short supply,” USC Shoah Foundation Executive Director Dr. Stephen D. Smith said in a statement. “He put himself at great risk to save others. By sharing his story, he has ensured that people will be inspired by his actions for generations to come.”
In 2014, composer Sharon Farber debuted her composition “Bestimming: Concerto for Cello, Orchestra and Narration,” which was “inspired by the heroics of Holocaust survivor Curt Lowens,” notes the Screen Actors Guild website. Lowens himself served as the narrator at the premiere performance.
Sources: The Hollywood Reporter, IMDb, SAG-AFTRA, USC Shoah Foundation / Photo credit: Visual Hunt, USC Shoah Foundation