World's Oldest Man, Israel Kristal, Is A Holocaust Survivor, Because Screw The Nazis
There are times when the world seems like a cruel and unforgiving place, and times when it gives us something that inspires you to hope regardless. This week, an Auschwitz survivor has been declared the world's oldest living man. So, at this time, I'd like to encourage you to take this opportunity to bust out your biggest grin and wave two middle fingers at the Nazis.
Israel Kristal was born in Poland on Sept. 15, 1903 to an Orthodox Jewish family. He moved to Lodz in Poland as a teenager to work in the family confectionary business. He and his family were moved into the Lodz ghetto following the Nazi invasion and occupation in 1939. He was eventually sent to Auschwitz, one of the most infamous and horrific of the Nazi death camps. Kristal managed to survive, however, and was there when the Red Army liberated Auschwitz in May of 1945. At the time, he weighed about 81 pounds. Tragically, Kristal's wife and two children, as well as most of his extended family, were killed during the Holocaust before the end of the war.
In 1950, Kristal immigrated to Israel with his second wife, where the couple raised two children and Kristal ran a confectioner's shop until eventually retiring. Today, he lives in Haifa, in the north of the country, surrounded by a large and loving family. At 112 years and 178 days old, as of March 11, 2016, Guinness World Records believes him to officially be the oldest man alive.
When presented with a certificate marking this distinction, Kristal said he didn't have any special secret for a long life. "I believe that everything is determined from above and we shall never know the reasons why," he said. "There have been smarter, stronger and better-looking men than me who are no longer alive. All that is left for us to do is to keep on working as hard as we can and rebuild what is lost."
During the Holocaust, the Nazis killed 11 million people, including 6 million Jews, as part of their systemic efforts to murder those they considered supposedly "inferior." Despite the fact that part of this goal called for the eradication of the Jewish people, many European Jews did manage to survive the Holocaust. Today, the global Jewish population has once again reached approximate pre-Holocaust levels, with most Jews today living in either Israel or the United States. In other words, the Nazis failed. And perhaps nothing symbolizes that quite so beautifully as the fact that one of the people they did their very best to kill is today the oldest man alive.