Croatian Prime Minister now has a special advisor for combating antisemitism

The daughter of "Schindler's List" producer has been appointed as Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Croatia for Holocaust Issues and Combating Antisemitism

 The flag of Croatia (illustrative). (photo credit: PIXABAY)
The flag of Croatia (illustrative).
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

Sara Lustig, the daughter of Branko Lustic – the late Croatian-Jewish producer of Schindler’s List – has recently been appointed special adviser to Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic. The Croatian news site Jutarnji reported that Lustig will earn a monthly fee of HRK 8,000 net, approximately $1,000.

Lustig is a political consultant and lawyer, educated in New York and London. The report noted that Lustig worked as an adviser in the cabinet of the then-minister of foreign and European affairs Vesna Pusic. She then became an adviser to the head of the cabinet of then-president of Croatia Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic.

For the past year, Lustig has been deputy head of the Croatian delegation to IHRA, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, after it was decided in 2020 that Croatia will take over the IHRA presidency in 2023.

According to Croatian news site Jutarnji, Croatia was the first of the IHRA member states to translate and publish the IHRA recommendations on learning and teaching about the Holocaust into its own language and presented them at the national level.

World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder met with Prime Minister Plenkovic at WJC headquarters in New York last week.

 A MONUMENT TO honor the victims of the Jasenovac camp. (credit: ANTONIO BRONIC/ REUTERS) A MONUMENT TO honor the victims of the Jasenovac camp. (credit: ANTONIO BRONIC/ REUTERS)

“Amb. Lauder thanked the Prime Minister for the warm relationship with the Croatian Jewish community and expressed his appreciation of the appointment and leadership of Special Advisor to the Prime Minister for Holocaust Issues and Combating Antisemitism Sara Lustig,” the WJC said on its website. According to WJC, “The two discussed Croatia’s upcoming term as the chairman of IHRA and the IHRA working definition of antisemitism.”

It was added that “Lauder voiced appreciation for Croatia’s steps combating antisemitism and preserving the memory of the Holocaust and offered assistance in these efforts. Both the prime minister and Lauder expressed satisfaction of Nazi glorification and historical obstruction are pushed to the margins of society.”

The Lustig legacy 

Branko Lustig was a holocaust survivor and was imprisoned for two years in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen camps. Before passing away in 2019, Lustig was considered the only Croatian-born person to receive two Academy Awards for his work. His first award was as a producer on Schindler’s List - probably the most famous movie about the Holocaust. His second award was for his work as producer of Gladiator.

“The real issue [is that] many people and many countries would like to erase everything that’s happened in the Second World War."

President Aleksandar Vucic

“The United States supports Croatia's commitment to fighting antisemitism and welcomes the appointment of Sara Lustig as Special Adviser to the Prime Minister for Holocaust Issues and Combating Antisemitism,” US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism (SEAS) Amb. Deborah E. Lipstadt said on Twitter. She added that “roles like this are essential to fighting antisemitism globally.”

As published by The Jerusalem Post in July, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic asked to visit Croatia privately and pay tribute to his grandfather who was murdered at the Jasenovac camp. Yet, Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic-Radman responded to the reports in the media of this planned visit and said, “The president of a country is a protected person, and such an arrival requires the involvement of the Croatian authorities,” according to local Croatian media. Sources in Croatia’s Foreign Ministry also were quoted saying, “The fact that Croatia has not been officially notified about the visit is unacceptable.”

In August, Vucic told the Post that “I asked Croatian authorities three times to allow me a visit at the Jasenovac camp, one of the deadliest camps in Europe.”

“I just wanted to visit Jasenovac,” he continued. “I asked the [Croatian] prime minister’s office twice before we announced my third visit,” Vucic said. The Croatians responded, “It’s not a proper time [to visit].... What do you mean it’s not a proper time? To lay a wreath? It’s nothing more than that. The real issue,” Vucic said of Croatia, was that “many people and many countries would like to erase everything that’s happened in the Second World War.”

Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center office in Jerusalem, an American-Israeli historian and Nazi hunter, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that he wishes Lustig "the best of luck," but added that "I have my doubts if she'll be able to solve the problem." 

"Croatia is a country with a very serious problem of antisemitism and holocaust distortion," Zuroff said. He said that "very recently, dozens of Croatian football fans who came to Milan to see the match against Dinamo Zagreb, marched through the streets screaming that 'Za dom spremni,' which means in Croatian, 'For homeland – ready!' It is the Ustaše (a Croatian fascist and ultranationalist organization that  sought to create an independent Croatian state) equivalent of the fascist or Nazi salute Sieg heil."

"Croatia committed three genocides: Against Serbs, Jews and Roma," he said. "There are Croatians who go to concerts of a very popular singer with Ustase paraphernalia with problematic symbols and uniforms."