110-Year-Old Candymaker Now Stakes Claims as Oldest Holocaust Survivor

Yisrael Kristal Survived Camps — Frets About Today's World

haaretz

By Ofer Aderet

Published February 26, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(Haaretz) — Alice Herz-Sommer, the Jewish pianist from London and survivor of Theresienstadt, died Sunday at the age of 110. After the passing of Sommer, whom the media described as the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor, the unofficial title passes to Yisrael Kristal, an Israeli confectioner from Haifa, who celebrated his 110th birthday last September.

Yisrael Kristal’s story may be as extraordinary as that of Sommer, but their world views are different. The birthday cards Kristal received for his hundredth birthday - ten years ago - decorate the walls of his Haifa home. “We’re not counting his great-grandchildren, but there are more than twenty,” said Oren, one of Kristal’s nine grandchildren.

This year marks the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. Kristal, who was born in 1903, remembers it from childhood. He saw Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria, the symbol of 19th-century Europe, with his own eyes. “I saw him in 1914, when I was a boy. There was a war then. He passed through our town in his car and we threw candy,” Kristal told Haaretz in an interview at his home last year.

Kristal’s mother died before World War I broke out. His father was captured by the Russian army and died soon after. In 1920, the 17-year-old orphan moved to Lodz, Poland to start over. After a stint as a metalworker, he began working in the family business: a candy factory in a nearby town. “It was hard physical labor. I dragged sacks of sugar that weighed 25 kilograms [55 pounds],” he recalls. It was in the factory that he learned the profession that stayed with him for the rest of his life - and that, one could say, saved him.

The Lodz Ghetto was established in 1940. Kristal, who was already a renowned expert in candy-making, continued his work, at times in secret and at times with semi-official encouragement from those in charge of the ghetto with Chaim Rumkowski, the head of the Judenrat, first among them.

In August 1944, he and his wife were deported to Auschwitz, where he performed forced labor and his wife was murdered.

“Two books could be written about a single day there,” he said. After liberation, he was taken to a hospital under the protection of the Russian army. There he was allowed to return to his profession, and he prepared sweets for Russian soldiers.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.