Israel Kristal is 112 years and 178 days old. That's quite an achievement. On Friday, representatives of Guinness World Records came to his home in Haifa, Israel, to officially give him a certificate. He's now officially the world's oldest living man.
Remarkably, it's even more of an achievement than it sounds. Kristal was born in what is now Poland on Sept. 15, 1903. He survived World War I as a child, but his father, his sole remaining parent, was killed by Russian soldiers during the conflict. He moved to the city of Lodz, Poland, as a teenage orphan, eventually finding work making candy.
When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, Israel moved into the Jewish ghetto in the city of Lodz. Four years later, by which time he was in his late 30s, Kristal's family was sent to Auschwitz, the notorious Nazi death camp. It was a horrific experience: “Two books could be written about a single day there,” he told Ha'aretz in a 2014 interview.
Kristal's wife and two children would be killed in the Holocaust, but again, he survived.
He was rescued by Russian forces in May 1945, apparently weighing only 80 pounds at the time. Remarkably, he now gives partial credit for his longevity to his time in the camp. “There wasn’t always food in the camps. I ate what I was given," he told Ha'aretz. "I ate what I was given. I eat to live, and I don’t live to eat. You don’t need too much. Anything that’s too much isn’t good."
Kristal returned to making candy in Lodz, eventually starting a new family and moving to Israel in 1950, now almost 70 years ago. He inherited the title of the world's oldest Holocaust survivor two years ago. When Yasutaro Koide, the previous oldest living man, died in January at age 112, Kristal was informed that he might be able to take the title if he could prove his age.
Kristal's daughter Shula Kuperstoch told the Jerusalem Post that the Holocaust had not effected her father's beliefs. “He believes he was saved because that's what God wanted," she told the newspaper. "He is not an angry person, he is not someone who seeks to an accounting, he believes everything has a reason in the world."
“I don’t know the secret for long life," Kristal said in a news release. "I believe that everything is determined from above and we shall never know the reasons why. There have been smarter, stronger and better-looking men then me who are no longer alive. All that is left for us to do is to keep on working as hard as we can and rebuild what is lost.”