Tag Archives: Auschwitz

Jew of the Week: Israel Kristal

Israel Kristal, World's Oldest Living Man (Credit: Guinness World Records)

Israel Kristal, World’s Oldest Living Man (Credit: Guinness World Records)

Izrael Icek Krysztal (b. 1903) was born near Zarnow, Poland to an Orthodox Jewish family. At the young age of three he started his studies at a religious school, and by six was already well-versed in Biblical and Talmudic knowledge. He survived the First World War as a teenager, despite the fact that his father had been drafted into the army, and his mother had passed away. After the war, he and his father reunited, and settled in Lodz where they opened up a candy shop. Kristal married and had two children. It wasn’t long before another World War broke out, and Kristal’s family was sooned moved to the Lodz ghetto, where both of his children died. Some time later, he and his wife were sent to Auschwitz, then transferred to several other labour camps. When the camps were liberated, Kristal weighed just 37 kilograms. Tragically, his wife didn’t make it, and neither did anyone else in his extended family. Starting anew once more, Kristal remarried, and made aliyah to Israel in 1950, where he has lived ever since. He continued working in his profession as a confectioner, first at a candy factory, and then from his own home. Last week, Guinness World Records confirmed Kristal as the world’s oldest living man (in addition to his previous recognition of being the oldest living Holocaust survivor). He is now nearing his 113th birthday. Still devoutly observant, Kristal says he hasn’t missed a day of laying tefillin for over 70 years, since the end of the Holocaust. He has nine grandchildren, and many more great-grandchildren. When asked what one should eat for a long life, he said: “There wasn’t always food in the camps. I ate what I was given. I eat to live, and I don’t live to eat. I don’t need too much. Anything that’s too much is no good.”

UPDATE: Sadly, Israel Kristal passed away in August of 2017.

Words of the Week

I don’t know the secret for long life. I believe that everything is determined from above and we shall never know the reasons why…
– Israel Kristal

Jew of the Week: Anne Frank

A Diary that Changed the World

Anne Frank

Anne Frank

Annelies Marie Frank (1929-1945) was born in Frankfurt, Germany. Her family fled to Amsterdam shortly after the Nazis took over, and there her father started a new business selling herbs, spices, and fruit extracts. On her thirteenth birthday, Anne received an autograph book that she began to use as a diary, which she addressed as “Kitty”, her best friend. By then, the Nazis had already occupied the Netherlands, and a month later Anne’s family was ordered to report to labour camps. Instead, they hid in a space above her father’s company offices. Some of the employees were aware of this, and provided the Franks with food. During this time, Anne wrote in her diary of her experiences, struggles, and relationships, as well as deeper insights into human nature. In the summer of 1944, the Franks’ hiding place was discovered and the family was arrested. They were sent through various detention centres and labour camps, ending up in Auschwitz. There, her father was taken away and presumed dead, while Anne, her sister, and mother were forced into back-breaking labour. By the time that the two sisters were relocated to Bergen-Belsen, their mother had already succumbed to starvation. Not long before the camp was liberated, a typhus outbreak spread that killed thousands. Anne and her sister were likely among those victims. The only member of the family to survive was Anne’s father, Otto. He went on to publish Anne’s original diary in 1947. By 1952 it was published in the US as Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, and would go on to be translated into 67 languages. In 1955, the first dramatization of the diary premiered as a Pulitzer prize-winning play. A movie version followed in 1959. The diary is still among the top-selling books of all time, and included in La Monde‘s list of the 100 greatest books of the century. It is praised for its beautiful writing, and is powerful not only for capturing some of the horrors of the Holocaust, but also for its honest portrayal of a girl’s transformation into a young adult. Nelson Mandela read the diary while imprisoned and said how Anne Frank’s story inspired his struggle. Others who derived inspiration from Anne Frank include President Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Hillary Clinton. TIME Magazine named Frank as one of its 100 most important people of the century. The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam still stands, and is one of the city’s most visited places.

Words of the Week

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.”

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

– From the diary of Anne Frank

Jew of the Week: Elie Wiesel

Messenger to Mankind

Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel

Eliezer Wiesel (b. 1928) was born in Romania in a home that regularly spoke Hungarian, German, Romanian, and Yiddish. During the Holocaust he suffered in multiple labour and concentration camps, including Buchenwald and Auschwitz, and lost both parents and a younger sister. After the war, he resettled in Paris, studied at the Sarbonne, and worked as a journalist. In 1949, Wiesel became the Paris correspondent (later the international correspondent) for Yediot Ahronot. Though originally not wanting to write at all about the horrors of the Holocaust, he was convinced by a friend and published Night in 1958 – a shortened French version of his 900-page memoir in Yiddish. Though it took a while to hit the mainstream, the book now sells hundreds of thousands of copies every year and has been translated into 30 languages. Wiesel has subsequently authored many more publications, and has become an internationally-renowned speaker. In 1986, he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts against racism, violence, and genocide, and was called a “messenger to mankind”. He has also won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and was knighted, among many other awards. He has even been nominated as President of Israel, but did not wish to take up the post. Wiesel has taught at Boston and Columbia Universities, the City University of New York, and served as a visiting scholar at Yale. He has spent a great deal of his life as a political activist for international causes. He stood strongly against apartheid South Africa and raised support for intervention during the Bosnian genocide, and more recently in Darfur. He has assisted the plight of Kurds, Native Americans, Argentinian Desaparecidos, as well as Soviet and Ethiopian Jewry. Wiesel remains a vocal supporter of Israel, and Jerusalem as its undivided capital. For the past 58 years, he has lived in the US and to this day has authored 57 books.

UPDATE: Sadly, Elie Wiesel passed away on July 2, 2016.

Words of the Week

For me, the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics. It is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture – and not a single time in the Koran.
– Elie Wiesel