Saturday, January 30, 2016

Probable Oldest Man in the World is Holocaust Survivor, Israeli Citizen

Born in Poland in 1903, Yisrael Kristal survived World War One, World War Two, the Lodz Ghetto, Auschwitz and the deprivations of post-war Central Europe, immigrating to Israel in 1950. How's that for beating the odds?

On a tragic note, his first children died in the Ghetto and his wife was murdered at Auschwitz. He would remarry after the war.

There is some question as to whether Kristal's age can be officially verified, as he doesn't possess any documentation from the first 20 years of his life.

Before reprinting a recent article on Kristal, I want to review some interesting facts: 
  • There are believed to be 300,000 to 400,000 centenarians currently alive, though that number has been increasing at a steep rate every year. It is estimated that by the year 2050 Japan alone will have almost that many.
  • In both the United States and Japan, an average of 100-150 people turn one-hundred every day--too many for the President or the Japanese Prime Minister to call. In the United States, they do get a letter "signed" by the President.
  • The Japanese have the highest per-capita incidence at 40 per 100,000--10 times greater than the world average.
  • The top six countries (with a per-capita incidence of 30 or higher) are Japan, Thailand, Spain, France, Italy and South Africa.
  • Spain's rate is 10 times higher than Portugal's.
  • There are only 300 to 400 supercentenarians (people who have lived to be at least 110) and only 39 people in modern recorded history who have lived to be 115. Only four are alive today.
  • The oldest person ever (whose age was officially verified) was Jeanne Calment of France who died in 1997 at the age of 122.
  • The oldest person currently alive is Susannah Mushatt Jones, born in Alabama and currently living in Brooklyn.
  • There are only two people currently alive who were born in the 19th century.
  • There are probably no more than 200,000 Holocaust survivors alive today, with "survivor" defined broadly as anyone--Jewish or non-Jewish--who suffered persecution under the Nazis in camps, prisons, ghettos or were refugees or in hiding. The number of Jewish concentration camp survivors is undoubtedly much smaller.
  • This number is shrinking at a rapid rate for obvious reasons. Museums, universities and other institutions are currently racing to document and interview as many survivors as possible.

From The Times of Israel:
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 honor. 
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 September 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.”

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