SAG-AFTRA to Honor Actor, Holocaust Survivor Curt Lowens for Service to Humanity

Courtesy of the Curt Lowens Collection at the Sala & Aron Samueli Holocaust Memorial Library at Chapman University

The presentation by Ken Howard will be accompanied by the premiere of a new musical work by Sharon Farber, which was inspired by Lowens.

President of SAG-AFTRA Ken Howard says his union has honored many members for their service to the community before, but the presentation to Curt Lowens on June 13 in Beverly Hills "may be the first such proclamation to a Holocaust survivor for contributions to humanity."

Lowens, 89, a prolific Hollywood  performer who has had roles in movies such as Torn Curtain, Angels & Demons and a recurring part on General Hospital, will be honored during an International Evening of Music and Remembrance at the Saban Theater, home of the Temple of the Arts.

Lowens, a German Jew, was forced during World War II to flee to the Netherlands, where he joined the Dutch Resistance. He is credited with saving 125 Jewish children by delivering them to families who hid them. He also assisted in the rescue of two downed American Army Corps flyers before the Germans could reach the crash.

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His story also is the inspiration for a new work to be premiered that evening by composer and performer Sharon Farber called Bestemming: Concerto for Cello, Orchestra and Narrator. Lowens will be the narrator.

"We were moved by his story. And after reviewing his courageous actions with the SAG-AFTRA Honors and Tributes Committee, we took this unique opportunity to recognize Curt's individual heroism while also honoring the sacrifices of all survivors and those who did not survive," says Howard.

"This is a critical time in history," adds Howard. "Many of the survivors have passed on, and it is more important than ever to recognize, honor and especially to document their experiences."

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Fluent in English, Dutch and German, he later worked with the British Eighth Corps as an interpreter. In that role, Lowens found himself with the responsibility of telling Hitler’s successor, Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz, that the war was over and the Germans had lost.

Ironically, when he came to Hollywood, most of the early roles Lowens got onstage and in movies, including Tobruk, Counterpoint and The Secret of Santa Vittora, required him to play German soldiers and officers.

Lowens remains humble about his work in the Dutch Resistance and with the British Eighth Corps: "If [people] feel there is heroism in this, it's their judgment," he says, "and I'm just happy to have experienced it and come through it like I have."

Others like Howard and Farber believe it is important to recall his story and his heroism. Farber hopes her Lowens-inspired composition will shed light on oppression around the world.

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"What we want to bring to the world with this is a message of remembrance — of the Holocaust and other genocides — and of tolerance, understanding and education for the next generation," notes Farber, "because you ask kids today in America what the Holocaust is and they have no idea."

Farber, a nominee for a daytime Emmy as a composer on The Young and the Restless (the only woman on this year's list), first heard Lowens' story at last year's Yom Kippur service at the Temple of the Arts and felt moved to bring his journey to life through music.

"The rabbi brought Curt to the stage and told his unbelievable, remarkable story. After he did that, all of the sudden from the wings came the offspring — children and grandchildren — of one of the pilots that he saved," she recalls. "The pilots have already passed, but it was such an emotional moment, so inspiring to see these people who wouldn’t even exist if this man didn’t save their fathers."

Admission is free. The program will be preceded by a Shabbat service. For more information, call (323) 658-9100 or visit the Bestemming: Sharon Farber's Concerto Inspired by a Holocaust Survivor Facebook page.

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