ZAGREB, Croatia >> Branko Lustig, an Oscar-winning Croatian film producer and Holocaust survivor, died today. He was 87.
The Yad Vashem center in Jerusalem said Lustig died in Zagreb, the capital of his native Croatia. No other details were immediately released.
Lustig is best known for winning Academy Awards for Best Picture for Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” and for Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator.”
He was also an assistant director on Volker Schlondorff’s Oscar-winning “The Tin Drum” (1979) and was a local production supervisor on Alan J. Pakula’s “Sophie’s Choice” (1982), another Oscar winner.
Lustig was born in the eastern Croatian town of Osijek, which was part of the Yugoslavia at the time. In World War II, he was imprisoned at Auschwitz and later in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camps.
Most members of Lustig’s family were slain during the wartime rule of Croatian pro-Nazi puppet Ustasha regime.
“Branko Lustig’s life story is interwoven with the tragic history of the Holocaust,” said Yad Vashem Visual Center Director Liat Benhabib. “He made it his life’s mission to tell the story of the Holocaust.”
Croatian media and officials have praised Lustin as the nation’s most successful and most prominent film producer. Croatia’s capital declared Lustig an honorary citizen 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.