World's Oldest Man, Auschwitz Survivor Yisrael Kristal, Dies at 113

Kristal, recognized as the oldest man in the world by the Guinness World Records, celebrated his bar mitzvah last year, a century late

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
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Yisrael Kristal.
Yisrael Kristal.Credit: Yaron Kaminsky
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

Yisrael Kristal, a Holocaust survivor who was recognized as the oldest man in the world by the Guinness World Records, died on Friday, a month before his 114th birthday. He will be buried on Saturday evening.

"We are sure that he died with a quiet heart, knowing that he would be buried in the Land of Israel. Most people he knew were not fortunate enough to be buried, let alone in Israel," said members of his family.

He celebrated his bar mitzvah last year, a century late.

Kristal, who resided in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, was born in on September 15, 1903, in the Polish village of Zarnow. In 1920, at the age of 17, he moved to Lodz, where he later started a family and opened a candy factory. He was deported to Auschwitz in 1940 and lost his first wife and two children in the Holocaust.

Kristal didn't speak much about his experience in the Holocaust. "Two books could be written about a single day there,” he said in a rare interview with Haaretz a few years ago.

Kristal immigrated to Israel in 1950 with his second wife, and settled in Haifa, where he continued to manufacture candy.

He is survived by two children, multiple grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

In 2016, Kristal was listed in the Guinness World Records as the world's oldest man. In order to receive the title Kristal had to present the organization with documents that were issued within 20 years of his birth that confirm his age.

At the time Haaretz helped the Kristal family locate official documents that were used to attest to his true age, among them a list of residents of Lodz in 1918, Kristal's wedding certificate from 1928 and a list of those deported to Auschwitz in 1944. The documents were found by the organization JRI-Poland.

When the Guinness representative told him that he was indeed the oldest recorded man, Kristal said it wasn't a big deal.

When he was asked if there was a formula to his longevity, he replied: "Everyone has his own luck, it is from heaven. There are no secrets."

Kristal, who lived for over a century and witnessed two world wars, had said the world is in a worse state today.

“The world is worse than in the past,” he said. “I don’t like the permissiveness here. Everything’s allowed. At one time, young people weren’t as cheeky as they are now. They had to think about a profession and about making a living. They were carpenters, tailors. That doesn’t exist today. Now it’s all high-tech. Things come easily, without effort, without the manual labor of the past. When were children, our parents told us, “You’ll marry this one, not that one. Today, children decide everything. Once upon a time, parents had the last word.”

In light of Kristal's passing, Guinness World Records will review other candidates for title of "oldest man in the world" and will announce the new title holder. While Kristal was the oldest man, the "oldest living person" is Violet Brown, a 117-year-old Jamaican woman, born in March of 1900. The record holder for "longest living human" was Jeanne Calment, a French woman who died at age 122 and 164 days.

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