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Oldest Man Alive is a Jewish Holocaust Survivor

Oldest Man Alive is a Jewish Holocaust Survivor

Yisrael Kristal is 112 years old and views his life as a miracle.


The oldest man in the world is Yisrael Kristal, a 112-year-old Israeli Holocaust survivor whose daughter attributes his extreme longevity to a mind-body connection. “He’s happy. This is the most important thing to be in every situation,” says Shula Kuperstoch of Haifa.

Her father attributes his longevity to God. He always called his life a miracle. Born Sept. 15, 1903, in Tarnow, Poland, as the son of a Torah scholar, he attended religious primary school until age 11. He remained religious throughout his life.

Kristal recalls the outbreak of World War I in 1914 when he was 11. Also etched in his memory for a century was the sight of Franz Josef I, the longest-reigning emperor of Austria and the last significant Habsburg monarch, passing through town in a car. Onlookers threw candy – which ironically has remained a motif in Kristal’s life ever since.

His younger years were bittersweet. Kristal’s mother passed away before the start of World War I. The Russian army captured his father who died soon after.

As a 17-year-old orphan, Kristal made his way to Lodz, Poland, one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe. He recreated his life first as a metalworker, then as a candy factory employee. The grueling physical labor of the latter job involved schlepping heavy bags of sugar. The experience foreshadowed events to come in adulthood.

Kristal would later own a sweets and chocolate factory in Lodz. After the Nazis invaded Poland, he and his wife and two children were ordered to move into the Lodz ghetto with 230,000 other Jews. The Nazis wanted Jews concentrated in ghettos to easily maneuver them. With that many people living in close quarters, adequate supplies of food and fuel became a problem.

His two children died in the Lodz ghetto and his wife perished in Auschwitz.

By then an expert candy-maker, Kristal was able to continue his craft in the ghetto. His family’s fate was heartbreaking; the children died there, and Kristal and his wife were deported to Auschwitz when the ghetto was liquidated in 1944. His wife perished. Kristal survived doing forced labor in Auschwitz and other concentration camps. At the end of World War II, he weighed just 37 kilos, or 81 pounds.

As his daughter told, he then started to live. Protected by the Russian army, he was taken to a hospital to begin to heal. When he recovered, he returned to Lodz, re-established and worked at his business, and married again.

“The body was listening to his mind. His mind was strong. His beliefs were strong. His body also became strong,” Kuperstoch says.

Kristal rebuilt his factory destroyed in the war and returned to a sweeter life as a candy-maker once again.

In 1950, he and his wife made aliya and settled in Haifa with their infant son, Haim. They also became parents to daughter Shula. Kristal’s brood would extend to more than 20 great-grandchildren.

In Israel, Kristal first worked at a candy factory. He taught the owners, also from Poland, how to shape an entire production line of sweets. Later he parlayed that acumen into his own business, making yummy sweets at home and selling them at a kiosk in Haifa. His signature temptations included little chocolate bottles of liqueur gaily wrapped in colored foil and carob jam fashioned with chocolate-covered orange peels.

An optimist, he enjoyed making people happy. “The Holocaust did not affect his beliefs,” said Kuperstoch. “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.”

Kuperstoch says she doesn’t need a world record; she’s just happy to have her father alive.

After surviving without much food in the concentration camps, one of his philosophies concerned eating to live, not living to eat. He reasoned, “You don’t need too much” in life.

Kristal’s daughter echoes his sentiments. Kuperstoch says she doesn’t need a world record; she’s just happy to have her father alive. This past Friday Guinness World Records confirmed Kristal as the world’s oldest man.

Guinness World Records’ Head of Records Marco Frigatti and 112-year-old Israel Kristal. Guinness World Records Guinness World Records’ Head of Records Marco Frigatti and 112-year-old Israel Kristal.
Guinness World Records

Susannah Mushatt Jones of New York, 116, is the oldest validated living supercentenarian. The top 60 on the Gerontology Research Group’s list are all women. As Robert Young, director of the group's Supercentenarian Research & Database Divison in the United States notes, “Women tend to live three to four years longer than men.” The group is a consultant to Guiness. 

He added that longevity isn’t limited to a particular area of the world. “The maximum human life span is the same the wherever you go. Everyone has the potential to reach the same age.” His list includes supercentenarians from Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, Russia and Spain…and now Israel.

March 12, 2016

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 10

(10) Ronda Robinson, August 11, 2017 11:44 PM

May his memory be a blessing

Rest your soul in peace, Mr. Kristal. Wishing your family strength and comfort among the mourners in Zion.

(9) Anonymous, March 14, 2016 3:30 PM

Awesome and inspiring! Here's to many more! Thanks for posting!

(8) Anna, March 14, 2016 6:19 AM

It's impossible to imagine being 112. What memories he must have.

I still expect people who are over 100 to have been born in the 19th century-my first thought when I read that Mr Kristal was born in 1903 was that that was a mistake !

(7) Patrick Dempsey, March 14, 2016 2:10 AM

Yisrael Krystztal

If this one man, Yisrael Kristal can suggest that we can begin to rebuild what has been lost, imagine what 112 people could do with just a moment to think about changing the course of History. To have Survived Auschwitz, to have lost his Wife Chaja and their x2 Children, to have come out alive and deliver us a plan for all of our futures, who would not congratulate Yisrael Krystztal. Live Longer and continue a Happy Life!

"..I don't know secret for long life. I believe that everything is determined from above and we shall never know ..reasons why. There have been smarter ..stronger ..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." Yisrael Kristal.

(6) Tulio Cintolesi, March 14, 2016 12:44 AM

May HaShem bless he.

He has suffered so much, but he Never forgot Torah. Never forgot where he come from. Baruj et Shem Ha Kadosh Shemo

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