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Israeli Holocaust survivor officially named world’s oldest man

Yisrael Kristal survived two World Wars and the Holocaust but doesn’t consider himself particularly remarkable, despite being named the world’s oldest living man Friday at age 112.

world Updated: Mar 12, 2016 12:35 IST
(FILES) This file photo taken on January 22, 2016 shows Yisrael Kristal sitting in his home in the Israeli city of Haifa. Kristal, a 112-year-old Israeli Holocaust survivor who lived through both world wars, is now the world's oldest living man, Guinness World Records said on March 11, 2016.
(FILES) This file photo taken on January 22, 2016 shows Yisrael Kristal sitting in his home in the Israeli city of Haifa. Kristal, a 112-year-old Israeli Holocaust survivor who lived through both world wars, is now the world's oldest living man, Guinness World Records said on March 11, 2016. (AFP)

Yisrael Kristal survived two World Wars and the Holocaust but doesn’t consider himself particularly remarkable, despite being named the world’s oldest living man Friday at age 112.

The Israeli was born in what is now Poland on September 15, 1903, three months before the Wright brothers’ first powered and controlled aeroplane flight.

He lived there after the First World War until the Nazi occupation in World War II, when he was eventually sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Kristal survived and moved to Israel, where he has lived for over six decades.

Guinness World Records confirmed on Friday he was now considered the world’s oldest living man, but Kristal remained modest.

“I don’t know the secret for long life. I believe that everything is determined from above and we shall never know the reasons why,” he said in a statement on Friday.

“There have been smarter, stronger and better looking men than me who are no longer alive.”

His daughter Shula Koperstoch was more excited.

“It’s a privilege (to have reached this age) and I’m very happy and he’s happy too. It’s really a privilege,” she told AFP.

Read: World’s oldest man dies at the ripe age of 112 in Japan

Marco Frigatti, Head of Records for Guinness, said, “Kristal’s achievement is remarkable -- he can teach us all an important lesson about the value of life and how to stretch the limits of human longevity.”

The oldest living woman, at 116 years old, is Susannah Mushatt Jones, of the United States, who was born on July 6, 1899.

“The camps taught me”

Kristal was born to an Orthodox Jewish family in Zarnov in what is now Poland in the same year as the first transatlantic radio broadcast from the United States to England.

He started to read Hebrew at the age of three and has been performing Jewish ritual prayer every day possible since.

After the First World War, Kristal moved to Lodz where he worked in the family confectionary factory, married and had two children.

But his life was disrupted when Jewish quarter of the city became a ghetto under Nazi occupation during World War II and Kristal was sent to the infamous Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Some 1.1 million people, most of them European Jews, perished in the camp between 1940 and 1945 before it was liberated by Soviet forces.

His wife and two children died but Kristal survived, weighing just 37 kilos (81 pounds) at the end of the war, Kuperstoch told AFP.

“But he gained strength and then eventually travelled to Israel”, settling in the northern city of Haifa where he remarried and opened a sweet shop, she said.

She described Kristal as a “very positive man, very optimistic and with a good heart”.

In an interview with Israeli media several years ago, Kristal was once asked what he ate to live so long.

“There wasn’t always food in the camps. I ate what I was given. I eat to live, and I don’t live to eat,” he said.

The previous oldest man, Yasutaro Koide of Japan, died in January at the age of 112.

Jeanne Louise Calment, who died in 1997, was the oldest verified person ever -- passing away in France aged 122 years and 164 days.