Kristal in September 2016
|Born||Izrael Icek Krysztal
September 15, 1903
Maleniec, Końskie County, Congress Poland, Russian Empire
August 11, 2017|
(aged 113 years, 330 days)
|Known for||Oldest living man
(January 19, 2016 – August 11, 2017)
Oldest survivor of the Holocaust
Yisrael Kristal (born Izrael Icek Kryształ; Hebrew: ישראל קרישטל; September 15, 1903 – August 11, 2017) was a Polish-Israeli supercentenarian, recognized as the oldest living Holocaust survivor, and after the death of Yasutaro Koide on January 19, 2016, was the oldest living man in the world as well as one of the ten oldest men ever.
Kristal became the world's oldest recognized Holocaust survivor in 2014 and the world's oldest man in 2016.
Kristal was born to a religious Jewish family in Maleniec, Końskie County near Żarnów, then part of Congress Poland of the Russian Empire, on September 15, 1903. His father was a Torah scholar who ensured his son had a religious education, and Kristal would remain religiously observant all his life. He attended a cheder at age three, where he studied Judaism and Hebrew. He learned the Hebrew Bible at four and the Mishnah at six. In a 2012 interview, he recalled his father waking him at five in the morning to begin his religious instruction.
His mother died in 1910 when he was 7 years old. After World War I broke out in 1914, he saw Kaiser Franz Joseph in person when the monarch rode through his town in a car, and recalled them throwing sweets as he passed. His father was drafted into the Imperial Russian Army and died soon after. Meanwhile, Kristal moved in with his uncles.
In 1920, at age 17, he moved to Łódź. After briefly laboring as a metalworker, he opened a candy store with an uncle. While initially working as a physical laborer, he later became a renowned expert candy-maker. He married Chaja Feige Frucht in 1928, and had two children.
In 1940, after the Germans had taken over Poland during World War II, Kristal continued to manufacture candy, at times secretly and at other times with the encouragement of the heads of the ghetto, among them head of the Łódź Ghetto Judenrat Chaim Rumkowski. His two children died in the ghetto, while Kristal and his wife were deported to Auschwitz concentration camp during the liquidation of the ghetto in August 1944.
Kristal's wife died in Auschwitz while he worked as a forced laborer and survived. When the camp was liberated by the Red Army, Kristal weighed 82 pounds (37 kg). He was taken to the hospital, where he returned to his profession and made candies for Soviet soldiers, before returning to Łódź, where he rebuilt his destroyed candy shop and met his second wife, Batsheva. They married in 1947. The couple had a son, Chaim, who was born in Poland, and a daughter, Shula, who was born in Israel.
In 1950, the family immigrated to Israel on the ship Komemiyut and settled in Haifa. He initially worked at the Palata candy factory, where he was considered an expert and taught the owners to make an entire production line of sweets. He then became self-employed, making boutique sweets at home and selling them at a Haifa kiosk. Among the sweets he produced were tiny liquor bottles made of chocolate wrapped in colored foil, jam made from carob, and chocolate-covered orange peels. In 1952, he began manufacturing his candies at the Sar and Kristal Factory on Shivat Zion Street. After the factory closed in 1970, he returned to making his candies at home before retiring.
Following the death of Alice Herz-Sommer in London on February 23, 2014, Kristal became recognized as the world's oldest known Holocaust survivor (though he was actually older than her). He became the world's oldest living man on January 18, 2016, after the death of Japanese supercentenarian Yasutaro Koide.[a]
On March 11, 2016, Kristal was officially recognized as the world's oldest man by Guinness World Records. His status was verified after documents confirming his age were uncovered in Poland (formerly, the family's oldest document was from his wedding at age 25, but Guinness regulations require documentation from the first 20 years of a person's life to claim the record; the newly found documents were discovered by Jewish Records Indexing – Poland).
Having been unable to do so at the age of 13 due to World War I, Kristal celebrated his bar mitzvah a century later, in September 2016, at the age of 113. On August 11, 2017, Kristal died at his home in Haifa at the age of 113 years and 330 days.