Curt Lowens: A Character Actor With True Character

(reprinted from my business blog…)

One of my favorite things to do is discover inspirational stories – about people you’d least expect, beautiful scenes of nature, or the toil of an insect.

If you are a MASH fan and watch the reruns on television, there is an episode about the 4077’s surgeons treating a wounded soldier from a small army unit from Luxembourg. The Luxembourg commander comes to the 4077th to visit his comrade-in-arms, and to thank the doctors for their diligent treatment of his wounds.

curt lowens, inspiration, MASH, character actor

This commander is played by a character actor named Curt Lowens. Very handsome, he has an elegant manner of speaking and the polite demeanor of the upper class European. So I looked him up on some of my favorite websites.

It turns out that Curt Lowens had just died this past May (2017) at the age of 91. The astonishing part was he was also a Holocaust survivor and war hero during WWII! My curiosity piqued, I researched further. Turns out that Curt Lowens, formerly Loewenstein, had become very well known among holocaust survivors, having saved over 100 Jews from certain death during the German occupation in Holland.

Curt was born in Poland in 1925. His father was a successful lawyer who had very high connections with the German and Jewish communities. The Loewensteins moved to Berlin in the 1930s when things became more dangerous for Jews in Poland. They thought they would be more protected by the large Jewish community in the German capital.

holocaust, concentration camp

After Kristallnacht destroyed their synagogue in 1938, the day before Curt’s bar mitzvah, the Loewensteins fled Berlin and entered Holland, trying to make their way to London. Before they could leave Holland, however, they were arrested and sent to a concentration camp. Miraculously, due to his father’s high connections, Curt and his family were released and allowed to reside in Holland.

The 13-year-old Curt soon joined the Dutch Resistance and over the next 2 years helped place over 100 Jewish children and adults with families who would hide them.

One afternoon, Curt was working outside on a farm when he saw two parachutes in the sky. Two American airmen had bailed out of their burning plane and landed in a nearby field. Curt was able to get them to trust him and he hid them in haystacks to avoid the Germans searching for them.

Afterwards Curt helped get the airmen back to England through the resistance underground, earning a commendation from General Eisenhower. He said the most vivid memory he had of the incident was getting his first taste of American chewing gum, which he mistakenly swallowed!

Curt, continued working with the British Eighth Corps as an interpreter, using a fake identity as a teacher until war’s end.

Curt emigrated to the U.S. in 1947 and studied to become an actor. He shortened his name to Lowens. Most of the roles he played were, of all things, Nazi officers, SS men, and even the Angel of Death Josef Mengele!  He appeared in movies such as Torn Curtain, Tobruk, Counterpoint, The Secret of Santa Vittoria, The Mephisto Waltz, The Hindenberg, The Other Side of Midnight, and Angels and Demons.

But his most active career path was as a guest star in nearly every TV series in the 60s, 70s and 80s that needed a German or Russian character. From General Hospital in 1962, to The FBI, Hogan’s Heroes, 12 O’clock High, Mission Impossible, MacGyver, Murder She Wrote, and MASH, ending with Legit, in 2013.

curt lowens, inspiration, MASH, character actor

In his later years, Lowens lent his life story to the Visual History Archive at the USC Shoah Foundation documenting the history of the Holocaust, and wrote his memoir called Destination: Questionmark. Lowens also worked with students at the Chapman School, providing his story and helping them create films and documentaries of te world’s history some in the world do not acknowledge.

There is no question what kind of man Curt Lowens was. Never one to bring attention to himself, he would say only that during his time with the Dutch Resistance, he did what anyone would do. As I watch his performances in television reruns, I only wish more people knew the story behind this selfless and caring man.