(JTA) – A Holocaust survivor in Haifa is believed to be the oldest man in the world.
Yisrael Kristal, 112, achieved that status this week after Yasutaro Koide of Japan, also 112, died, Haaretz reported Thursday.
Kristal’s grandson, Oren, received an email this week from the Gerontology Research Group, an international organization that tracks the world’s over-110 set, alerting him that the Polish-born Auschwitz survivor was up for the honour.
Upon hearing the news, Kristal said in Yiddish: “The joy of my old age.”
To be officially certified as the oldest living man, Kristal must present documentation from the first 20 years of his life. However, Haaretz reported, the earliest official document Kristal possesses is from when he was 25.
Born on Sept. 15, 1903, in the town of Zarnow, Kristal moved to Lodz in 1920 to work in his family’s candy business. He continued operating the business after the Nazis forced the city’s Jews into a ghetto, where Kristal’s two children died. In 1944, he was deported to Auschwitz, where his wife, whom he had married at age 25, was killed.
In 1950, he moved to Haifa with his second wife and their son, working again as a confectioner.
Kristal’s daughter Shula Kuperstoch told The Jerusalem Post that he has been religiously observant his whole life and continues to lay tefillin each morning.
“The Holocaust did not affect his beliefs,” Kuperstoch said. “He believes he was saved because that’s what God wanted. He is not an angry person, he is not someone who seeks to an accounting, he believes everything has a reason in the world.”
“His attitude to life is everything in moderation,” she added. “He eats and sleeps moderately, and says that a person should always be in control of their own life and not have their life control them, as far as this is possible.”
Interviewed by Haaretz in 2012, at the comparatively youthful age of 109, Kristal declined to offer a theory for his longevity, instead saying, “It’s no great bargain. Everyone has their own good fortune. It’s from heaven. There are no secrets.”
Asked if his diet was responsible for his long life, he said, “In the camps there wasn’t always anything to eat. What they gave me, I ate. I eat to live; I don’t live to eat. I don’t need too much. Anything that’s too much is no good.”