The oldest man in the world is most likely an Israeli Holocaust survivor aged 112.
A grandson of Yisrael Kristal was contacted this week by the Gerontology Research Group based in the US following the death of Yasutaro Koide in Japan, who was also 112.
According to the organization, Kristal is now the oldest living man on record although this still has to be validated by his documentation.
He has in his possession his marriage certificate from the 1920s but it is unclear as yet if this will suffice to formally register him as the oldest man in the world.
Kristal was born in 1903 in the town of Zarnov in the Lodz province of what is now Poland to a religious family. His father was a Torah scholar and Kristal himself went to heder, or religious primary school until the age of 11.
During the First World War Kristal’s father was forced into military service with the Russian army but survived the war and returned home.
Kristal married and had two children, eventually moving to the city of Lodz where he established a successful sweets and chocolate factory.
Following the Nazi invasion of Poland and the occupation of Lodz, Kristal was moved into the Lodz ghetto with his family but was allowed to continue operating his factory.
His two children died in the ghetto, while Kristal and his wife were sent to Auschwitz following the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto in August 1944.
Kristal’s wife was murdered in Auschwitz but he survived doing forced labor in the concentration camp and other camps as well.
After the war he returned to Lodz and once again re-established his sweets factory, marrying again in 1947.
In 1950, he made aliya to Israel with his wife and infant boy, Haim, born to the couple, settling in Haifa where he has remained ever since. The couple had a daughter, Shula, and Kristal, doing what he knew, established a new sweets factory in the city called Kristal’s Sweets.
He remained religious throughout his life, puts on tefillin and prays every day, reciting the prayers off by heart since his eyesight is poor.
“The Holocaust did not affect his beliefs,” his daughter Shula Kuperstoch told The Jerusalem Post.
“He believes he was saved because that's what God wanted. He is not an angry person, he is not someone who seeks to an accounting, he believes everything has a reason in the world,” she said.
“My father is someone who is always happy. He is optimistic, wise, and he values what he has,” Kristal’s daughter continued.
“His attitude to life is everything in moderation,” she says. “He eats and sleeps moderately, and says that a person should always be in control of their own life and not have their life control them, as far as this is possible.”
Kuperstoch said that her father does not ascribe particular importance to his advanced age, seeing it as just the simple circumstances of his life and nothing especially unusual.
Neither does attribute his extreme longevity to anything other than God, and believes that his old age is simply a divine form of divine grace that has been bestowed upon him.
“He says that if he had created some medicine to extend life then it would be something notable,” said Kuperstoch. “But his attitude is that he has just lived his life, and reached thus age, it’s just his reality, it wasn’t in his hands. That’s what he believes.”