A 112-year-old Israeli who lived through both world wars and survived Auschwitz is the world’s oldest man, Guinness World Records announced on Friday.
Guinness said in a statement that Israel Kristal is 112 years and 178 days old as of March 11. Marco Frigatti, head of records for Guinness, awarded Kristal a certificate at his home in Haifa on Friday.
“I don’t know the secret for long life,” Guinness quoted Kristal as saying. “I believe that everything is determined from Above and we shall never know the reasons why.”
Kristal was born in 1903 to an Orthodox Jewish family and grew up in the village of Molnitza (Molience), Poland.
In an interview published in the current issue of Hamodia’s Inyan magazine, Kristal remembers life in his hometown.
“So much chessed was performed in the village,” he says.
“I remember that every Erev Shabbos we would bring our pot of cholent to the baker, who had a large oven where all the cholent pots were kept warm until Shabbos morning. By the weight of the pot, the baker knew the financial position of every family in the village.”
And what happened to those who didn’t have anything in their pot?
Reb Yisrael replies with a smile: “Ah, those people had the most! When the other villagers saw that one of the pots was essentially empty, they quickly put some of their cholent into that pot. As a result, when the family came to take back their pot for the seudah, they had the most cholent.”
He moved to Lodz to work in the family confectionary business in 1920. During the Nazi occupation of Poland he was confined to the ghetto there and later sent to Auschwitz and other concentration camps. His first wife and two children, Hy”d, were killed in the Holocaust.
In the interview, Reb Yisrael declared that the Holocaust did not affect his beliefs; on the contrary, it strengthened them. “I became even more religious from the Holocaust,” Reb Yisrael affirms. “If I stayed alive after so much suffering, this is a real miracle because it’s supernatural.
“I never thought I would survive the War. All I thought about each day was to stay alive that day, nothing more. So I certainly didn’t dream of having grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and whenever I look at them I know that I have won.”
At the end of World War II, Kristal, the only survivor of his large family, weighed only about 81 pounds. He moved to Israel in 1950 with his second wife and their son.
In Israel, Kristal “continued to grow both his family and his successful confectionary business,” Guinness said.
“All that is left for us to do is to keep on working as hard as we can and rebuild what is lost,” he said.
For the full interview with Kristal, see the March 9 edition of Hamodia’s Inyan magazine.