Yisrael Kristal, or Israel Kristal, is an Israeli supercentenarian recognized as the oldest man alive, at age 112 years, 182 days. Kristal was born to Jewish parents in Poland, then part of the Russian Empire, and had a religious upbringing. A confectioner by profession, he experienced World War I as a child, and World War II as an adult.
Kristal survived the Holocaust but his wife did not, and he emigrated to Israel with his family in 1950. 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, Poland, 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 World War I broke out in in 1914, he saw Kaiser Franz Joseph in person when the monarch rode through his town in a car, and recalled throwing sweets at him with other children as he passed. His father was drafted into the Imperial Russian Army and died soon after.
In 1920, at age 17, he moved to Lódz. After briefly laboring as a metalworker, he found a job in the family's candy factory. While initially working as a physical laborer, he later became a renowned expert candy-maker. He married 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 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. After the camp was liberated by the Red Army, he was taken to hospital, where he returned to his profession and made candies for Soviet soldiers, before returning to Lódz, where he rebuilt his destroyed candy shop and met his second wife, Batsheva. They married in 1947. The couple had a son, Chaim.
In 1950, the family immigrated to Israel on the ship Komemiyut and settled in Haifa, where the couple had a daughter, Shula. 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.
Kristal is still religiously observant, and has nine grandchildren. He also has great-grandchildren, but his family prefers not to state his exact number of descendants for fear of the "evil eye". After the death of Alice Herz-Sommer in London on February 23, 2014, Kristal became the world's oldest known Holocaust survivor (though he was actually older than she). He became the world's oldest living man after the death of Japanese supercentenarian Yasutaro Koide on January 19, 2016.
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. Guinness regulations require documentation from the first 20 years of a person's life. The newly found documents were discovered by Jewish Records Indexing - Poland.