In Memory of Curt Lowens

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 12:00am

USC Shoah Foundation is saddened to learn of the passing of Holocaust survivor Curt Lowens, a wartime hero who became a well-known character actor when he moved to the United States. He was 91.

Born Curt Lowenstein on Nov. 17, 1925 in Germany, Lowen and his family had planned to emigrate to the United States as World War II was starting, but they were stopped from leaving the Netherlands when the Germans invaded that country. He was briefly deported to the Westerbork concentration camp in 1943, but he was released because of his father’s business connections.

He then went into hiding, took the name “Ben Joostin” and became deeply involved the resistance movement and efforts to save fellow Jews. By 1945, he and his band of rescuers were responsible for the rescue of 150 Jewish children by delivering them to families for hiding. He received a commendation from Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower for his efforts to help two downed American Army Air Corps flyers. He also worked as a translator for the British Eighth Corps and helped the British arrest several Nazi leaders.

By the time he arrived in the United States in 1947, he again changed his name, this time to Curt Lowens, and studied acting. Since then, he has appeared on more than 100 films and television shows, where he often appeared as a Nazi. He portrayed Josef Mengele in the Broadway play The Deputy, and an SS officer on the television show Wonder Woman.

He gave his testimony to USC Shoah Foundation in 2012.

“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 US 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.” 

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Curt Lowens on his early career as an actor

Holocaust survivor and rescuer Curt Lowens emotionally reflects on arriving to the United States after World War II. He also describes why he decided to pursue a career in entertainment as an actor.