In 1993, director Steven Spielberg released one of the most powerful films about World War II called Schindler's List. Following the events of the Holocaust from the perspective of the imprisoned Jews and a few key Nazis, it is a film that over 20 years later still manages to resonate. It is a powerful story of doing the right thing and being as helpful as you can. It expectantly won Best Picture along with a series of other awards. Yesterday, its legacy got its own public display when producer Branko Lustig decided to donate his award to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum.
Among Lustig's many achievements is being the producer on two Best Picture winners: the aforementioned Schindler's List and Gladiator. However, it is the former that he likely has more of a personal connection to. During his youth, he was imprisoned at concentration camps in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. While he would reunite with his mother at the end of the war, many of his other relatives were killed. He would return in 2011 to have his own Bar Mitzvah to commemorate the right of passage at a place that took it away from him.
The producer found a lot of great symbolism in choosing that museum for its final resting place. The only other option would be to display it in his home, where only his immediate family would see it. He claims that “I’m not parting with it, I am leaving it to the nation, for generations to come." He also considers the museum a universal symbol for commemorating these events. It is a symbol of an artist expressing his hope in times of darkness and a recognition of the struggles that both Lustig and thousands of others had to face.
Schindler's List is a powerful reflection of what the cinematic landscape can do. It is both a picture of tragedy and hope, capturing Spielberg at his directorial heights. That is why it feels important to acknowledge this honor not as an attention-grabbing Academy Award statue, but as the symbol of creativity and ambition to tell the stories of those that lost their lives in the holocaust. Even if it is just a statue, it is one that symbolizes a certain excellence that decades later, we're still discussing the events artistically and that they actually still matter. Lustig's donation is very noble and hopefully will serve as its own beacon of hope to the many who visit it in the museum for decades to come.