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Branko Lustig (1932–2019), Auschwitz survivor and “Schindler’s List” producer

by Linnea Crowther

Branko Lustig was the Oscar-winning producer of movies including “Schindler’s List” and “Gladiator.”

Branko Lustig was the Oscar-winning producer of movies including “Schindler’s List” and “Gladiator.” Born in Yugoslavia, Lustig was imprisoned in the Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps during World War II, where most of his family members died. Lustig survived the camps, along with his mother, with whom he was reunited after the war. After getting his start in the Yugoslavian film industry, where he won several Golden Arena Awards for his work, Lustig came to the U.S. in 1988. He soon met Steven Spielberg, director and co-producer of “Schindler’s List” (1993). Lustig’s experiences in the Holocaust were considered as “Schindler’s List” was developed, and he made a cameo appearance as a nightclub maître d’. He went on to produce “Gladiator” (2000) as well as other films including “The Peacemaker” (2001), “Hannibal” (2001), and “Black Hawk Down” (2001).

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Died: November 14, 2019 (Who else died November 14?)

Details of death: Died in Zagreb, Croatia at the age of 87.

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Oscar donation: Twenty-one years after winning his Oscar for “Schindler’s List,” Lustig decided to donate it to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. There, he said, he left it “to the nation, for generations to come.” He added that it was the appropriate resting place for the award.

Notable quote: “My number was 83317. I am a Holocaust survivor. It is a long way from Auschwitz to this stage.” —Lustig, while accepting his Oscar for “Schindler’s List”

What people said about him: “When we first met to discuss Schindler’s List, he insisted his award-winning film credits were irrelevant, and that his qualification to work on the film was simple and singular. Rolling up his sleeves to reveal a numeric tattoo from Auschwitz, he left me speechless and our lovely friendship of nearly three decades was born in that intimate moment. 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.” —Steven Spielberg

“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.” —Russell Crowe, star of “Gladiator”

“It is with great sorrow and sadness I heard about Branko Lustig’s demise, a dear man who survived the horrors of the Shoa, and worked extensively in order to keep its memories alive. Never forget! Please, on my behalf and on the behalf of the state of Israel my deepest condolences to the family.” —Ilan Mor, Israeli ambassador to Croatia

Full obituary: The New York Times

Related lives:

  • Claude Lanzmann (1925–2018), director of acclaimed Holocaust documentary “Shoah”
  • Alice Herz-Sommer (1903–2014), Holocaust survivor’s story was told in “The Lady in Number 6”
  • George Brady (1928–2019), Holocaust survivor immortalized in “Hana’s Suitcase”


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