Branko Lustig

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Branko Lustig
Branko Lustig (2009)-1.jpg
Lustig at the LAMOTH 2nd Annual Dinner in 2009
Born(1932-06-10)10 June 1932
Died14 November 2019(2019-11-14) (aged 87)
Zagreb, Croatia
OccupationFilm producer
Years active1955[1]–2019
Mirjana Lustig
(m. 1970)
  • Mirko Lustig
  • Vilma Gütter

Branko Lustig (10 June 1932 – 14 November 2019) was a Croatian film producer best known for winning Academy Awards for Best Picture for Schindler's List and Gladiator. He is the only person born in the territory of present-day Croatia to have won two Academy Awards.[2]

Early life[edit]

Lustig was born in Osijek, Kingdom of Yugoslavia to a Croatian Jewish family. His father, Mirko, was head-waiter at an Osijek Café Central, and his mother, Vilma (Gütter), was a housewife. Lustig's grandparents, unlike his parents, were religious and he regularly attended the local synagogue with them.[3][4][5]

During World War II, as a child he was imprisoned for two years in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Most members of his family perished in the death camps throughout Europe, including his grandmother who was killed in the gas chamber, while his father was killed in Čakovec on 15 March 1945. Lustig's mother survived the Holocaust and was reunited with him after the war.[6] On the day of the liberation, he weighed only 66 pounds (29.94 kg).[3][7] Lustig credited his survival in Auschwitz to a German officer who happened to be from the same suburb of Osijek as Lustig. He overheard Lustig crying and asked him who his father was. It turned out the officer had known Lustig's father.[8][9]

Movie career[edit]

Lustig began his film career in 1955 as an assistant director at Jadran Film, a state-owned Zagreb-based film production company.[1] In 1956 he worked as a unit production manager on Branko Bauer's World War II drama Ne okreći se sine, winner of three Golden Arena awards at the 1956 Pula Film Festival. Lustig was the location manager for Fiddler on the Roof (1971).[10] In the 1980s Lustig worked on the miniseries The Winds of War (1983) and its sequel War and Remembrance (1988). He moved to the United States in 1988.[1]

Lustig received his first Oscar in 1993 for the production of Schindler's List, a film based on the novel of Thomas Keneally (which is, in turn, based on the true-life story of a German manufacturer who saved hundreds of Jews during World War II). Lustig himself had a cameo early in the film as a nightclub maitre d’. In July 2015, Lustig presented the Oscar to Yad Vashem for eternal safekeeping.[11] He received his second Oscar for the epic movie Gladiator about a struggle for power in Imperial Rome, in 2001. Other major Hollywood films that Lustig worked on as a producer or executive producer include The Peacemaker (1997), Hannibal (2001), and Black Hawk Down (2001). In 2008, Lustig helped establish an independent production company Six Point Films to produce "meaningful, thought-provoking independent films".[10]

Personal life and death[edit]

In 1994 Lustig received the Order of Duke Trpimir by President Franjo Tuđman for his work in film.[1][12] In 2008 he became the first filmmaker ever, and second in the field of the arts (preceded by Vladimir Nazor), to be awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Zagreb.[2]

The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust honored Branko Lustig together with Andreas Maislinger at his 2nd Annual Dinner on 8 November 2009 at the Beverly Hills Hotel for his long-time commitment to Holocaust education and commemoration. Lustig is honorary president and one of the founding members of the Jewish Movie Festival in Zagreb.[13] On 16 September 2010, he was awarded honorary citizenship of Osijek.[14]

Lustig celebrated his bar mitzvah on 2 May 2011 at Auschwitz, in front of barrack No. 24a. He missed his rite of passage as a 13-year-old because at the time he was a prisoner in the very same barrack, having been deported from Osijek when he was ten years old.[4] The bar mitzvah ceremony was held during a March of the Living educational tour of Poland and Israel for high school students.[15]

Lustig resided between Los Angeles and Zagreb, and called both of the cities his home, although in the Jutarnji list interview from September, 2012 he stated: "But more and more, slowly, I am returning to Zagreb. I'm coming back."[16] In the 2017 local elections Lustig was elected member of the Zagreb City Assembly as a candidate of Milan Bandić's party list[17] but eventually did not take his seat.[citation needed]

Lustig died in Zagreb on 14 November 2019, aged 87.[18][19][20][21]

Lustig's life was remembered in BBC Radio 4's obituary programme Last Word in December 2019.[22]


Year Title Role Notes
1962 Kozara U oci ranjeni Njemac [23]
1975 Anno Domini 1573 Donosilac krune za pogubljenje [23]
1984 Memed, My Hawk Prison Guard [23]
1993 Schindler's List Nightclub Maitre d' [23]
1997 The Peacemaker Man with Poodle (final film role)[23]


  1. ^ a b c d "Hollywoodska večer za Branka Lustiga". Vjesnik (in Croatian). Archived from the original on 28 May 2009. Retrieved 10 July 2008.
  2. ^ a b Penić, Goran. "Oskarovac predavač na Akademiji". Jutarnji list (in Croatian). Archived from the original on 11 July 2008. Retrieved 10 July 2008.
  3. ^ a b "Moj put od logora do Hollywooda". Gloria (in Croatian). Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
  4. ^ a b "S Oscarovcem Lustigom na bar micvi u Auschwitzu: Mazel tov, Branko!". Jutarnji list (in Croatian). Archived from the original on 10 May 2011. Retrieved 8 May 2011.
  5. ^ Sandomir, Richard (21 November 2019). "Branko Lustig, 87, Dies; Holocaust Survivor Turned Film Producer". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Flax, Peter; Baum, Gary; Roxborough, Scott; Guthrie, Marisa; Lewis, Andy (16 December 2015). "Hollywood's Last Survivors of the Holocaust share their stories". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  7. ^ "U Hollywoodu održana večer posvećena Branku Lustigu". Jutarnji list (in Croatian). Archived from the original on 28 May 2009. Retrieved 10 July 2008.
  8. ^ Branko Lustig: Plakao sam Hrvatski (Crying in Croatian) on YouTube, Nova TV Interview, October 2010.
  9. ^ "Branko Lustig: 'Logorovao sam s Annom Frank'". (in Croatian). 22 May 2009. Archived from the original on 26 March 2017. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  10. ^ a b "Branko Lustig". Archived from the original on 26 August 2006. Retrieved 20 August 2006.
  11. ^ "Branko Lustig, 'Schindler's List' Producer, Donates Oscar to Yad Vashem". NBC News. Archived from the original on 22 July 2018. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  12. ^ "Odluka o dodjeli Ordena kneza Trpimira". Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  13. ^ "Festival Židovskog filma Zagreb". (in Croatian). Archived from the original on 1 June 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
  14. ^ "Branko Lustig primio priznanje počasnog građanina grada Osijeka". (in Croatian). 16 September 2010. Archived from the original on 4 October 2011. Retrieved 16 May 2011.
  15. ^ Torok, Ryan. "‘Schindler’s List’ producer named Mensch" Archived 24 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine,, 6 February 2013; accessed 6 February 2013.
  16. ^ "Lustig: 'Bio sam nedavno u Auschwitzu i bilo me je sram! Vijorile su se sve zastave svijeta. Osim moje Hrvatske'". Jutarnji list (in Croatian). Archived from the original on 24 September 2012. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
  17. ^ "U ZG skupštinu ulaze poznata glazbenica, bivše ministrice, proslavljeni filmski producent..." (in Croatian). Archived from the original on 22 May 2017. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  18. ^ "UMRO BRANKO LUSTIG Dvostruki dobitnik Oscara napustio nas je u 88. godini - Jutarnji List". 14 November 2019. Retrieved 14 November 2019.
  19. ^ ""Schindler's List" Producer Branko Lustig Dies at 87". The New York Times. 14 November 2019. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 14 November 2019.
  20. ^ ""Schindler's List" producer Branko Lustig dies at 87". ABC News. Retrieved 14 November 2019.
  21. ^ "Branko Lustig, Oscar-Winning Producer of 'Schindler's List' and Holocaust Survivor, Dies at 87". The Hollywood Reporter. 14 November 2019.
  22. ^ Presenter: Matthew Bannister; Contributor: Michael Goldfarb; Producer: Neil George (22 December 2019). "Last Word: Kenny Lynch OBE, Chris Moncrieff CBE, Kate Figes, Branko Lustig". Last Word. 13:35 minutes in. BBC. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  23. ^ a b c d e "Branko Lustig". IMDb. Retrieved 26 April 2021.

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