Branko Lustig, the Croatian Jewish film producer who survived Auschwitz as a child and went on to work on the Academy Award-winning movie “Schindler’s List,” is donating the Oscar statuette he received for the film to Israel’s Holocaust museum Yad Vashem.
Lustig, 83, has won two Academy Awards, for “Gladiator” and for “Schindler’s List,” Steven Spielberg’s movie telling the true story of German industrialist and Nazi Party member Oskar Schindler, who saved the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust.
The producer said that Yad Vashem would be the appropriate place for the statuette. According to Israel’s Ynet news website, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović will visit Israel for the ceremony, to take place at an unspecified date next month, in which Lustig will present the statuette to the museum.
Lustig recently contacted Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev, offering to donate the statuette. Shalev accepted, telling Lustig that there would a ceremony to mark the donation. Lustig, whose health is declining, also asked Kitarović to be one of the guests at the ceremony. The two have been friends since she served as ambassador to the US.
Lustig was born to a Croatian-Jewish family in Yugoslavia in 1932. His parents were secular but his grandparents were religious and they would regularly take him to the synagogue.
During the Holocaust, Lustig was imprisoned for two years in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Most of his family perished in the Holocaust. His mother survived and was reunited with him after the war.
When he was liberated, Lustig weighed just 66 pounds (30 kilograms). He credited his survival in Auschwitz to a German officer who happened to be from the same suburb of Lustig’s hometown of Osijek. When the officer overheard Lustig crying he asked him who his father was, and it emerged the officer had known him.
Yad Vashem said that the statuette will be on display in its viewing center, which also includes a media library of more than 10,000 films about the Holocaust.