‘He Left Me Speechless’: Steven Spielberg Remembers Branko Lustig

Dave McNary

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Steven Spielberg has offered a touching remembrance of Branko Lustig, the Holocaust survivor who produced “Schindler’s List” with Spielberg and Gerald Molen and died Thursday in Croatia.

“I was heartbroken to hear of Branko’s passing and my thoughts are with his family and friends,” Spielberg said. “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.”

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“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,” Spielberg concluded. “He will be truly missed.”

As a boy, Lustig was a prisoner in concentration camps in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen during World War II. He went on to become a producer and won best picture Academy Awards for “Schindler’s List” and “Gladiator.”

“Schindler’s List,” which Spielberg directed, told the story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved the lives of more than 1,000 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories.

Lustig said in his emotional acceptance speech in 1994, “It is a long way from Auschwitz to this stage. The dying ones left me the legacy to tell — if I survive — how it was.”

Lustig donated his “Schindler’s List” Oscar to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. He joined Spielberg to set up a project at the Shoah Foundation to record the testimony of more than 50,000 Holocaust survivors.

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