Yisrael Kristal, a Holocaust survivor of the Nazi Auschwitz death camp, who was recognized as the oldest man, passed away on Friday. Kristal, a resident of Haifa, was due to celebrate his 114th birthday next month. A date for the funeral has yet to be set, but it will probably take place on Saturday night.
His daughter, Shula Kupershtuch, said her father died in the afternoon falling ill and being hospitalized. "I got a great father, who gave me a lot of confidence and strength," she said Saturday. "Despite all that he went through, and his losing his whole family in the Holocaust, he had a lot of optimism. He always saw only light and good in everything.
"I remember how when my husband passed away, he told me to 'take comfort in having a burial plot.' There were many people in Auschwitz who perished and burned, who they were not buried. But he was buried here, in the earth of the Holy Land."
Kupershtuch added that her father did not take his living in Israel for granted, in light of all the victims and family members who remained behind who did not survive as he did. "He did not take the Holy Land for granted, as we do."
In 2014, Kristal was recognized as the oldest survivor still alive, and about a year and a half ago Guinness World Records recognized him as the oldest man in the world. During the First World War he was 13 years old, and because of the war he missed his Bar Mitzvah celebrations. He finally went through his Bar Mitzvah 100 years later, when he had an Aliyah, in September 2016. His daughter Shula said at the time that "it always bothered him that they did not celebrate him a Bar Mitzvah.
After Kristal's death, the oldest man in the world is Francisco Nuniz Oliveira, age 112. The oldest woman is Violet Brown, 117, from Jamaica.
A man rising from the ashes
Born in 1903, Kristal's life story spanned all all of the 20th century. After his father died at the age of 16, he studied the secrets of making sweets and opened a factory in Lodz, and married Feiga. At the time of World War II he was married and the father of two children who perished in the Holocaust.
"During the years they lived in the Lodz ghetto," recalled his daughter. "His two sons died from diseases when they were 8 and 10. What protected Yisrael and his wife was his talent for making sweets. It was what saved (their—ed) life, because the sweets made my father were considered essential in the ghetto and therefore was not sent to the camps, but only towards the end (of WWII). The Germans had birthdays, so the sweets and chocolates were essential for their festivities."
Kristal and his first wife remained in the ghetto, and in May 1944 were sent to Auschwitz in a transfer that was among the latter. They stayed in Auschwitz for ten months, were sent to labor camps and then marched toward their expected deaths. Yisrael weighed only 37 kilograms. His wife, Feiga, did not survive.
After the war, Kristal returned to Lodz and reestablished a candy factory. He met Batsheva, who also lost her family in the Holocaust, and they married and immigrated to Israel in 1950. The couple had three children, but one of them died in infancy. They raised two daughters to adulthood.
Upon his death, Yisrael had many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He brought his secrets of sweets-making with him to Israel, establishing a candy factory in Haifa.