Left to right: Croatian President H.E. Ms. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, Branko Lustig, Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev, and Visual Center Director Liat Benhabib standing by the Oscar statue donated to Yad Vashem by Branko Lustig
Branko Lustig's Oscar for Best Picture for the film "Schindler's List" now on display at Yad Vashem's Visual Center
22 July 2015
On Wednesday, July 22, 2015, Croatian film producer and Holocaust survivor Branko Lustig donated to Yad Vashem the Oscar awarded to him by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Schindler's List. The Oscar is being displayed in Yad Vashem's Visual Center - the world's digital film library for Holocaust-related films.
The event took place during the official visit to Yad Vashem by Croatian President H.E. Ms. Kolinda Grabar-Kitaroviִc, during which a joint declaration on Holocaust commemoration and education between Yad Vashem and Croatia was signed.
After the signing, a special symposium took place in Yad Vashem's Auditorium, in cooperation with the Embassy of Croatia. At the event, Visual Center Director Liat Benhabib presented a lecture on "Reflections: Holocaust Memory in Film." "Film will forever influence the way the Shoah is formed in collective memory," said Benhabib. "Schindler's List touched the hearts of millions worldwide and enhanced Holocaust remembrance and education, eventually becoming an icon of Holocaust commemoration."
Branko Lustig was born in Osijek, Croatia to a Jewish family. During WWII, he was imprisoned in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen for two years. After liberation, he was reunited with his mother. The majority of his family members were killed in the death camps. A renowned film producer based in Croatia and Hollywood, Lustig has produced many prominent films and mini-series and won a number of prestigious awards, including two Oscars (Schindler's List and Gladiator).
Chairman Shalev praised Lustig for "finding the golden path to providing a difficult narrative to the general public. Schindler's List was not the first feature film about the Holocaust, but was a 'hurricane' in Holocaust awareness." Recognizing the "courage" it took for Lustig to make such a remarkable film, especially as a survivor, Shalev thanked him also "for your decision to separate yourself from your Oscar - which is so meaningful for any creator - and to give it to Yad Vashem, on the Mount of Remembrance, where it will be seen by millions of visitors and become another step in enhancing Holocaust commemoration."
President Grabar-Kitaroviִc highlighted Lustig's ongoing promotion of tolerance and education in Croatia. "Education is the strongest weapon against any kind of radical ideology or racism," she said. "History is the teacher of life. This Oscar represents a beacon of light - of the Righteous Among the Nations who made the right choice despite the risk of being cruelly punished. I celebrate Branko Lustig's mission to make the world a better place - his tikun olam."
An emotional Lustig explained how as a young survivor, he used the medium of film to try to tell what he had witnessed. "I talk and talk, so the younger generations will be aware and try to stop intolerance and racism wherever they see it," he remarked.
"This Oscar is all the victims and the survivors - all that they went through. It represents all the people who were killed and asked us to tell their stories."
The Yad Vashem Visual Center collects, catalogues and preserves Holocaust-related films of all genres. The Collection comprises 10,000 titles from all over the world, as well as tens of thousands of survivor testimonies, recorded by the USC Shoah Foundation Institute established by Steven Spielberg, and by Yad Vashem. All of the testimonies and most of the films in the Collection are available for viewing at the Visual Center. The Visual Center's film database is available here.