World′s oldest man Yisrael Kristal dies aged 113 | News | DW | 11.08.2017
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World's oldest man Yisrael Kristal dies aged 113

Born in 1903, Yisrael Kristal survived both world wars and the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz before emigrating to Israel. He was certified the world's oldest man by the Guinness World Records last year.

Yisrael Kristal's daughter, Schulamit Kristal, said on Friday that her father had passed away at the age of 113 - just weeks before his 114th birthday - at his home in the Israeli city of Haifa.

Israeli daily Haaretz had initially reported Kristal's passing before his family could be reached for comment. As observant Jews, Kristal's family observed the religious Shabbat tradition, which entails engaging in a day of rest on Friday.

The World Jewish Congress, an international federation of Jewish communities, honored his death on Twitter, writing: "Holocaust survivor Yisrael Kristal was the oldest man in the world. Yisrael passed away today. May his memory be a blessing."

According to Israeli news site Ynet, Kristal is survived by two children, nine grandchildren and 32 great-grandchildren.

Holocaust survivor

Kristal was born in Zarnow, in what today is part of Poland, on September 15, 1903. After losing his mother at a young age and seeing his father go off to fight in the Russian army during the First World War, he remained in the city until the war's end, after which he moved to Lodz.

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Holocaust survivor is world's oldest man

There, he worked in the family's confectionery factory, got married and had two children. However, when war in Europe broke out again and Poland became occupied by Nazi forces, Lodz's Jewish quarter subsequently became a ghetto and Kristal was deported to the infamous death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

His wife and two children were among the 1.1 million Jews who perished at the camp between 1940 and 1945. Kristal, however, managed to survive, performing slave labor. When he was found by Soviet liberating forces, he weighed just 37 kilograms (81 pounds).

Read more: Why one of the last remaining Auschwitz survivors wrote a memoir decades later

The only survivor in his family, Kristal later moved to Israel in 1950 with his second wife and their son. There, he opened another sweet shop and continued to run the business up until his retirement.

Despite being an observant Jew, Kristal had never celebrated his bar mitzvah - a traditional Jewish ceremony marking the transition when one must begin taking responsibility for their actions, usually celebrated at age 13. Because his mother had died just months before his 13th birthday and his father was fighting during the First World War, Kristal was never able to mark the occasion.

That changed last year, though, when he finally celebrated his bar mitzvah with his family, 100 years after the original date.

"My father is religious and has prayed every morning for 100 years, but he has never had his bar mitzvah," his daughter Shula Koperstoch told the AFP news agency last year.

The secret to a long life?

Upon being recognized by the Guinness World Records as the world's oldest man in March last year, Kristal was asked what the secret to his longevity was.

"I don't know the secret for long life," he told the Guinness World Record. "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 than me who are no longer alive."

Kristal succeeded Yasutaro Koidein being certified the world's oldest man, when the Japanese national died in January 2016 at the age of 112.

dm/sms (AFP, dpa)

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