Entertainment

Auschwitz survivor, Oscar-winning producer Branko Lustig dead at 87

Branko Lustig, an Oscar-winning Croatian film producer and Holocaust survivor, has died at 87.

Lustig won Academy Awards as a co-producer on Schindler's List and Gladiator

Branko Lustig, right, is shown with director Steven Spielberg, left, and Gerald Molen, centre, after Schindler's List won the best director and best picture in 1994. (Blake Sell/Reuters)

Branko Lustig, an Oscar-winning Croatian film producer and Holocaust survivor, has died at 87.

The Yad Vashem centre in Jerusalem said Lustig died Thursday in Zagreb, the capital of his native Croatia.  

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."

Lustig is best known for winning Academy Awards for Best Picture for Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List and for Ridley Scott's Gladiator. Croatian media and officials have praised him as the nation's most successful and most prominent film producer.

Lustig was born in the eastern Croatian town of Osijek, which was part of Yugoslavia at the time. In the Second World War he was imprisoned at Auschwitz and later in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camps.

'What an amazing life he led'

Lustig's other motion picture production credits, according to IMDB.com, included Black Hawk Down, American Gangster and Hannibal, and he was an associate producer on the hit 1980s television miniseries The Winds of War and War and Remembrance.

He was also an assistant director on Volker Schlondorff's Oscar-winning The Tin Drum and was a local production supervisor on Alan J. Pakula's Sophie's Choice (1982), another Oscar winner.

Most members of Lustig's family were slain during the wartime rule of Croatian pro-Nazi puppet Ustasha regime.

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.

Russell Crowe, who won an Oscar for Gladiator, paid tribute to Lustig on Twitter.

"What an amazing life he led. From the horrors of WWII to the glory of two Academy Awards … Much love Branko. Always your friend," said Crowe.

With files from CBC News

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