World's oldest man, a Holocaust survivor, dies at 113

Israel Kristal, the world’s oldest man who lived through both World Wars and survived the Auschwitz concentration camp died a month short of his 114th birthday, his family said Saturday.

Oren Kristal, a grandson, said the man died Friday. “He managed to accomplish a lot. Every year he lived was like a few years for somebody else,” his grandson told the Associated Press.

Last year, Guinness World Records awarded Kristal a certificate as the world’s oldest man.

Kristal was born to an Orthodox Jewish family near the town of Zarnow in Poland.

“When he was a child during World War I in Poland, he was a helper for a booze smuggler. He used to run barefoot in the snow through the night many kilometers with a heavy package on his back at about 12 years old, smuggling alcohol between the lines of the war,” the grandson said.

“He used to walk very fast until he was very old, faster than me, and he used to tell me that when he was my age, if you didn’t walk fast enough, your feet would stick to the frozen ground,” he recalled his grandfather telling him.

Kristal was orphaned shortly after World War I and moved to Lodz to work in the family confectionary business in 1920.

During the Nazi occupation of Poland, Kristal was confined to the ghetto there and later sent to Auschwitz and other concentration camps. His first wife and two children were killed in the Holocaust. Six million Jews were systematically murdered by German Nazis and their collaborators during World War II.

“He used to tell us whenever we were mourning someone that we should consider that they are being buried in the land of Israel. Most of the people he knew did not get to be buried in a grave when they died,” Oren Kristal said.

Kristal survived World War II, weighing only 81 pounds — the only survivor of his large family.

He later married another Holocaust survivor and moved with her to Israel in 1950. There, he built a new family and a successful confectionary business.

“He was a very hard-working man, a lot of energy always running from one place to another doing something,” his grandson said.

He said his grandfather participated in one of his grandson’s bar mitzvah just a few weeks ago.

Kristal himself celebrated his own bar mitzvah only last year, a hundred years later than usual. He missed his bar mitzvah — the Jewish coming-of-age ceremony celebrated when a boy turns 13 — because of World War I.

Oren Kristal said his grandfather gave no explanation to the secret for his incredible longevity.

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