'Schindler’s List' producer and Holocaust survivor Branko Lustig dies at 87
Croatian-born Lustig was imprisoned in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen while most members of his family were slain during rule of pro-Nazi regime; Yad Vashem says Oscar winner's 'life story is interwoven with tragic history of Holocaust'
The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem said Lustig died in Zagreb, the capital of his native Croatia. No other details were immediately released.
Lustig is best known for winning Academy Awards for Best Picture for Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” and for Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator.”
He was also an assistant director on Volker Schlondorff’s Oscar-winning “The Tin Drum” (1979) and was a local production supervisor on Alan J. Pakula’s “Sophie’s Choice” (1982), another Oscar winner.
Lustig was born in the eastern Croatian town of Osijek, which was part of the Yugoslavia at the time. In World War II, he was imprisoned at Auschwitz death camp and later in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
At the age of 78, Lustig returned to Auschwitz, where he was imprisoned at the age of 10, to celebrate his bar mitzvah.
Most members of Lustig’s family were slain during the wartime rule of Croatian pro-Nazi puppet Ustasha regime.
“Branko Lustig’s life story is interwoven with the tragic history of the Holocaust,” said Yad Vashem Visual Center Director Liat Benhabib.
“He made it his life’s mission to tell the story of the Holocaust.”
Lustig donated his Oscar for Schindler's List to the museum, saying it was "the place where the award should be kept after my death."
Yad Vashem Mourns the Loss of Croatian Holocaust Survivor and Oscar-Winning Filmmaker, Branko Lustig https://t.co/1upsJONym1— Yad Vashem (@yadvashem) November 14, 2019
He is pictured below donating his Oscar for "Schindler's List" to Yad Vashem in 2015. pic.twitter.com/pNpEoJHV8w
Croatian media and officials have praised Lustig as the nation’s most successful and most prominent film producer. Croatia’s capital declared Lustig an honorary citizen for promoting democratic values, culture and tolerance.
“Only a supreme act of creation could express the horrific experience of a boy who has known life and death in the Nazi death camps,” Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said.
Australian actor Russell Crowe, who played the lead role of Maximus Decimus Meridius in "Gladiator," also paid tribute to Lustig on Thursday.
Just read the news— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) November 14, 2019
Branko Lustig has passed.
What an amazing life he led.
From the horrors of WWII to the glory of two Academy Awards.
He said to me once “ you disagree with me a lot, but you’re always my friend on the days I need you”.
Yes.Much love Branko. Always your friend.
"What an amazing life he led," Crowe wrote on Twitter. "From the horrors of WWII to the glory of two Academy Awards. He said to me once “you disagree with me a lot, but you’re always my friend on the days I need you”. Yes. Much love Branko. Always your friend."
Itamar Eichner and Omer Shachnai contributed to this report