Branko Lustig is a Croatian film producer. He is the only person born in the territory of present-day Croatia to have won two Academy Awards.
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, was a housewife. Lustig's grandparents, unlike his parents, were religious and he regularly attended the local synagogue with them.
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 March 15, 1945. Lustig's mother survived the Holocaust and was reunited with him after the war. On the day of the liberation, he weighed only 66 pounds (29.94 kg). 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.
Lustig began his film career in 1955 as an assistant director at Jadran Film, a state-owned Zagreb-based film production company. 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 (film) (1971). 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.
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). In July 2015, Lustig presented the Oscar to Yad Vashem for eternal safekeeping. 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 has 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.”
In 2008 he became the first filmmaker ever and second in the field of arts (only one along with Vladimir Nazor) to be awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Zagreb.
The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust honored Branko Lustig together with Andreas Maislinger at his 2nd Annual Dinner on November 8, 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. On September 16, 2010, he was awarded honorary citizenship of Osijek.
Lustig celebrated his bar mitzvah on May 2, 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. The bar mitzvah ceremony was held during a March of the Living educational tour of Poland and Israel for high school students.
Lustig resides between Los Angeles and Zagreb, and calls 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."