Yisrael Kristal .
(photo credit: COURTESY OF FAMILY)
It’s official: The oldest man in the world is Israeli Holocaust survivor Yisrael Kristal, age 112.
Kristal, a resident of Haifa who survived Auschwitz, was handed a certificate by the Guinness World Records on Friday according him the status as the oldest known man on the planet.
The recognition was first reported by the British newspaper The Guardian.
A grandson of Kristal was contacted in January by the US-based Gerontology Research Group 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 needs to be validated by his documentation.
Kristal was born on September 15, 1903, to a religious family in the town of Zarnov in the Lodz province of Poland, then part of the Russian Empire. His mother died in 1910. 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 Lodz, where he established a successful candy 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 Lodz Ghetto before its liquidation, while Kristal and his wife were sent to Auschwitz.
Kristal’s wife was murdered there, but he survived doing forced labor in the concentration camp and other camps as well.
After the war he returned to Lodz and reestablished his candy factory, marrying again in 1947.
In 1950, he made aliya with his wife and their infant son, Haim, and settled in Haifa, where he has remained ever since. The couple had a daughter, Shula, and Kristal, doing what he knew, established a candy factory in the city called Kristal’s Sweets.
He has remained religious throughout his life, putting on tefillin and praying every day, reciting the prayers 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 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 said. “He eats and sleeps moderately, and says that a person should always be in control of his own life and not have his life control him, 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. He attributes his extreme longevity to God, and believes that his old age is simply a 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 this age, it’s just his reality, it wasn’t in his hands. That’s what he believes.”