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Oldest man in the world survived Auschwitz, will receive bar mitzvah at 113

Thu, Sep. 15, 2016 Posted: 08:10 PM


By Mark Ellis

Due to the trauma of World War I, Israel Kristal missed the opportunity for his bar mitzvah at 13-years-old. Now as the world’s oldest man, he will finally celebrate the Jewish rite of passage.

Kristal was born into a religious Jewish family in Poland, then part of the Russian Empire. His father, a Torah scholar, made sure his son had a religious education and awakened young Israel at five in the morning for religious training.

He learned the Hebrew Bible at four-years-old and the Mishnah at six. Kristal maintained his faith throughout his life.

His mother died when he was only seven. When World War I broke out in in 1914, he saw Kaiser Franz Joseph in person when the monarch rode through his town in an open motorcar.

His father, drafted into the Imperial Russian Army during the Great War, died soon after his enlistment.

At age 17, Kristal started working in his family’s candy factory and later became an 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 and his family were forced to live in the Jewish ghetto. His two children died there, while Kristal and his wife were deported to Auschwitz concentration camp in August 1944.

Speaking about the horror of Auschwitz, he once told Ha’aretz, “Two books could be written about a single day there.”

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Mark Ellis