Branko Lustig, a two-time Oscar-winning Croatian film producer and Holocaust survivor died on Nov. 14 at the age of 87.
News of his death was confirmed by the Yad Vashem center in Jerusalem, who said he died in Croatias capital on Thursday. The Jewish film festival, “Festival of Tolerance,” where Lustig was president for the past 13 years, also reported his death. No other details were immediately released.
Born in 1932 in the eastern Croatian town of Osijek, which was formerly a part of Yugoslavia, Lustig suffered many losses during his early life. He lost most of his family members during World War II in Nazi death camps throughout Europe. He was imprisoned in Auschwitz and later in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camps.
Croatian-born Auschwitz survivor Branko Lustig, who became a film producer in Hollywood and won an Oscar for Schindlers List, has died at the age of 88. https://t.co/S9BhMJDQz2
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) November 14, 2019
Later in life, Lustig won his first Oscar for producing a film about his personal experiences, “Schindlers List,” directed by Steven Spielberg. He met Spielberg when he moved to Los Angeles in the 1980s.
Liat Benhabib, Director at Yad Vashem Visual Center, said Lustig made it his “lifes mission” to tell the story of the Holocaust.
“Branko Lustigs life story is interwoven with the tragic history of the Holocaust,” he said.
Lustig told The Hollywood Reporter in 2014 of Spielbergs reaction when he recalled his harrowing experiences during his time of imprisonment.
He said Spielberg kissed the camp number, A3317, tattooed on his arm, and said: “You will be my producer.”
“He is the man who gave me the possibility to fulfill my obligation,” he told the outlet.
“Im a Holocaust survivor. It is a long way from Auschwitz to this stage,” he said in an emotional speech as he accepted the Oscar in 1993.
The film, as well as Ridley Scotts “Gladiator,” also won Academy Awards for Best Picture.
He directed and produced more than 100 local and foreign films, and was an assistant director on Volker Schlondorffs Oscar-winning “The Tin Drum” (1979) and a local production supervisor on Alan J. Pakulas “Sophies Choice” (1982), another Oscar winner.
Croatian media and officials have praised Lustig as the nations most successful and most prominent film producer. Croatias capital declared Lustig an honorary citizen in May 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.
After learning about Lustigs passing, Hollywood star and “Gladiator” actor Russell Crowe took to Twitter to pay tribute in a heartfelt message.
Just read the news
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 youre always my friend on the days I need you.”
Yes. Much love Branko. Always your friend.