He’s not the 2,000-year-old man of the Mel Brooks comedy routine.
But Yisrael Kristal of Haifa may be the next best thing — the oldest living man in the world.
There’s only one problem: Mr. Kristal doesn’t yet have his paperwork in order to convince Guinness World Records that he’s the real deal. And at 112, by his accounting, he may not have much time.
The question of whether or not he is the world’s oldest man, now that 112-year-old Yasutaro Koide of Japan has died, doesn’t much concern Mr. Kristal. But historians and genealogists are working overtime to try to find documents that satisfy the Guinness World Records rules and prove this Polish-born Israeli Holocaust survivor’s age.
The retired confectionery-maker’s family say that he was born September 15, 1903. Mr. Kristal has his marriage certificate from 1928; it recorded his age then as 25.
That would be enough to convince most people.
But the organization that publishes an annual book listing the world’s records and achievements says that in order for Mr. Kristal to receive an official World Record holder title, he must provide documentation from the first 20 years of his life.
“We have standard rules and it would be unfair on other people if we bent the rules,” Robert Young, senior consultant for gerontology at Guinness World Records, said.
After Haaretz broke the story of the possibility that Mr. Kristal is the world’s oldest living man, the Jewish Records Index organization volunteered to find the documents necessary to prove it. JRI-Poland has the largest fully searchable database of indexes to Jewish vital records accessible online, with more than five million records from more than 550 Polish towns.
Mr. Kristal was born in Zarnov; he and his family moved to Lodz until the Nazi occupation. He worked as a candy maker in his family’s confectionery shop but eventually was sent to Auschwitz.
According to family statements, Mr. Kristal’s first wife died in the Holocaust. He remarried in 1947 in Lodz, and moved with his family – his second wife and son — to Israel in 1950.
In Haifa, Mr. Kristal made a name for himself as an expert candy maker. His specialties, according to his family, were tiny liquor bottles made of chocolate and wrapped in colored foil, carob jam, and chocolate-covered orange peels.
Mr. Kristal has nine grandchildren and many great-grandchildren. In 2014, after Alice Herz-Sommer died in London, he became the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor.
Haaretz reports that JRI sent it Mr. Kristal’s mother’s death certificate — she died in 1910 — as well as his 1928 marriage certificate.
And while genealogists the world over are searching for documents to support Mr. Kristal’s age and get him recognized as the record holder, the man born three months before the Wright brothers took their first flight isn’t excited about the promising title. In fact, when he was told about it by a Haaretz journalist, he answered, “Big deal.”