Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Oscar winner celebrates bar mitzvah at Auschwitz
Yesterday, Oscar winning producer Branko Lustig celebrated his bar mitzvah at an unlikely place: Auschwitz.
The 78-year-old is the award-winning producer of Schindler’s List and has been attached to other films such as Sophie’s Choice, Black Hawk Down and American Gangster.
Lustig missed his rite of passage as a 13 year old because at the time, he was a prisoner in Auschwitz.
Deported to Auschwitz at the age of 10, Lustig was able to pass off as a 16 year old, and was assigned the job of handing out water to the prisoners working in a coal mine.
In the closing months of the war, he was transferred to Bergen-Belsen where, miraculously, he was reunited with his mother. It was in Bergen-Belsen that Lustig was liberated. After recovering, he returned to his Croatian hometown and joined a local film production company.
In 1988, Lustig moved to the United States, where he met, and quickly became friends with famed director Steven Spielberg.
Upon meeting, Spielberg asked Lustig to become his producer for Schindler's List.
The film launched Lustig’s Hollywood career, and when Schindler’s List won the best picture Oscar in 1993, along with six other Oscars, Lustig joined Spielberg and associate producer Gerald Molen onstage to accept the award.
Lustig later went on to become a partner in Six Point Films, a production company that was established by Lustig and his business partner, Phil Blazer.
It was Blazer who suggested that Lustig celebrate the bar mitzvah he had missed 65 years earlier. Lustig thought it was a great idea.
This is why yesterday, on May 2, and accompanied by 10,000 March of the Living participants, Lustig celebrated his bar mitzvah in front of barrack No. 24, the very barrack that Lustig lived in while staying in Auschwitz.
To end his ceremony, Lustig gave a speech that recalled his pledge, as the youngest prisoner in his Auschwitz barrack, to tell the world about the fate of his elders who did not survive.
Lustig concluded with these words: “The message I want to share today is the most important one I learned from my years in the concentration camps. It is the message of tolerance … Tolerance is my bar mitzvah wish today, and ‘never again’ is my hope and my dream for always.”