December 7, 2019

Branko Lustig, Holocaust Survivor and ‘Schindler’s List’ Producer, 87

Branko Lustig at a gala dinner at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., June 6, 2016. (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

Branko Lustig, a survivor of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen who became a Hollywood film producer, died of heart failure on Nov. 13 in Croatia. He was 87.

His death was announced by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, where Lustig donated his best picture Oscar for “Schindler’s List” (1994), one of two he received. The other was for “Gladiator” (2000).

Lustig was born on June 10, 1932, in Osijek, a small town in eastern Croatia. During the war, his family was interned in labor camps, and Lustig was sent to Auschwitz in 1944 and liberated from Bergen-Belsen a year later. The only other member of his family to survive was his mother, Vilma.

After the war, Lustig returned to Croatia and started to work in film. In 1971, he was a production manager for “Fiddler on the Roof” and “The Tin Drum,” in 1978. He also was a producer on the television miniseries’ “The Winds of War” (1983), based on Herman Wouk’s 1971 novel, and “War and Remembrance” (1988), based on Wouk’s 1978 follow-up novel to “The Winds of War,” and “Sophie’s Choice” (1982).

Lustig moved to the United States in 1988. He met Steven Spielberg, and after telling the director of his experiences in the camps, Spielberg signed Lustig to work as a producer on “Schindler’s List.”  

“Maybe the reason I survived the camps was to help make movies about them, to show people what happened.” — Branko Lustig

Accepting the Academy Award for the movie, Lustig said, “It’s a long way from Auschwitz to this stage. I hope I fulfilled my obligation to the innocent victims of the Holocaust.” He told the Los Angeles Times that “maybe the reason I survived the camps was to help make movies about them, to show people what happened.”

Spielberg told Variety, “Emerging from the horror of the Holocaust, his personal journey is a triumph of hope and determination; a story to which children from some of today’s unthinkable environments can aspire. He will be truly missed.”

Lustig’s other credits include “Black Hawk Down” (2002), “Kingdom of Heaven” (2005), and “American Gangster” (2007).

Lustig is survived by his wife, Mirjana, and his daughter, Sara.