By IAN DEITCH
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel Kristal, the world’s oldest man, has passed away just a month short of his 114th birthday, his family said Saturday. He lived through both World Wars and survived the Auschwitz concentration camp, though his wife and children were killed.
Oren Kristal, a grandson, said he died Friday. “He managed to accomplish a lot. Every year he lived was like a few years for somebody else,” Oren told The Associated Press.
Last year Guinness World Records awarded Kristal a certificate as the world’s oldest man.
Kristal was born to an Orthodox Jewish family near the town of Zarnow in Poland.
“When he was a child during World War I in Poland he was a helper for a booze smuggler. He used to run barefoot through the night many kilometers with a heavy package on his back at about 12 years old, smuggling alcohol between the lines of the war,” his grandson said.
“He used to walk very fast until he was very old, faster than me, and he used to tell me that when he was my age if you didn’t walk fast enough your feet would stick to the frozen ground,” Oren said.
Kristal was orphaned shortly after World War I and moved to Lodz to work in the family confectionery business in 1920.
During the Nazi occupation of Poland, Kristal was confined to the ghetto in Prague and later sent to Auschwitz and other concentration camps. His first wife and two children were killed in the Holocaust. Six million Jews were systematically murdered by German Nazis and their collaborators during WWII.
Kristal survived World War II weighing about 80 pounds — the only survivor of his large family.
Kristal married another Holocaust survivor and moved with her to Israel in 1950 where he built a new family and a successful confectionery business.
“He was a very hard-working man, a lot of energy, always running from one place to another doing something,” Oren, his grandson, said.
Said his daughter Shula Kupershtuch: “He always saw only light and good in everything.”
Oren said his grandfather participated in a family bar mitzvah just a few weeks ago.
Kristal himself celebrated his bar mitzvah only last year, a hundred years later than usual. At age 13 he missed the traditional Jewish coming-of-age ceremony because of World War I.
Oren said his grandfather gave no explanation to the secret for his incredible longevity.
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