Oscar-winning Croatian film maker and Auschwitz survivor Branko Lustig on Wednesday presented the Oscar he won for being a co-producer of Schindler’s List to Yad Vashem, saying that this was the best place for it because it will remind the many visitors that there is hope in the darkest times. He made the presentation in honor of the Croatians recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous among the Nations.
The presentation was made in the presence of Croatian President Kolinda Graber- Kitarovic, a personal friend of Lustig’s and who came to Israel especially for the occasion, survivors who were on Schindler’s list, Auschwitz survivors and diplomats and expatriates of the former Yugoslavia.
Graber-Kitarovic said she was proud 111 of her countrymen had been recognized as Righteous among the Nations and announced that a Holocaust monument was being dedicated in Zagreb in the near future. The monument, she said, is in memory of victims of the Holocaust and all totalitarian regimes.
An avid student of history and a strong believer in telling the truth about history, Graber-Kitarovic said that Croatia had confronted its role in the Shoah, although the atrocities were those of the notorious Ustase and did not reflect the real character of the anti-Fascist Croatians. Education, she said, was the strongest weapon against radical ideologies, and she expressed her pride in the fact that since returning from Hollywood to Zagreb 10 years ago, Lustig had devoted himself to promoting peace and tolerance.
Lustig said he was grateful that the Croatian authorities had permitted him to go to schools all over the country to tell the story of the Holocaust and what happened to him, a boy who entered Auschwitz at the age of 10 and was unable to celebrate his bar mitzva until he was 79.