Croatian born Oscar-winning film producer, who survived the Nazi death camps of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, Branko Lustig has died at his home in Zagreb at the age of 87 this Thursday.
Branko Lustig was born in the city of Osijek in 1932. Because of his Jewish background, he was imprisoned at the Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen camps during World War II. Most of his family members disappeared in concentration camps across Europe. He spent more than 50 years in the film industry, began making films such as ‘Don’t Look Back, My Son’ and ‘Kozara’, worked in foreign co-productions in the 70’s, which allowed him to leave in the 80’s to Los Angeles where he met Steven Spielberg.
Lustig is best known for winning Oscars for Best Picture for Steven Spielberg’s ‘Schindler’s List’ where he embedded his experiences from the death camps. After producing ‘The Peacemaker’ starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman, Lustig began a long and productive collaboration with Ridley Scott with whom he made six films. The first of them was Gladiator which won Lustig his second Academy Award. In Croatia, he has been praised as the nation’s most successful and most prominent film producer of all times.
After 45 years in Hollywood, Lustig returned to Croatia and became the president of our annual Festival of Tolerance, aimed at “fostering critical thinking and the creation of a more tolerant society”. The Festival of Tolerance once began as the Jewish Film Festival, which was intended to raise awareness about and maintain collective memory of the Holocaust through films and personal testimonies about the WWII concentration camps.
Croatia’s capital of Zagreb has declared Lustig an honorary citizen for his contribution to promoting democratic values, culture and tolerance.
Photo source: Festival of Tolerance – Jewish Film Festival