Tag Archives: Guinness World Records

Jew of the Week: André Citroën

The Man Who Made the Citroën Car and Helped Win World War I

As a child, André Citroën was inspired by the Eiffel Tower. He lived to see his name displayed on it. This early “billboard” marketing technique is still a Guinness World Record for largest advertising sign.

André-Gustave Citroën (1878-1935) was born in Paris to a Dutch-Jewish father and Polish-Jewish mother. The last name “Citroën” comes from his grandfather, who sold fruit for a living in the Netherlands and was known as Limoenman, so his son made the family last name Citroen, which means “lemon”. As a child, Citroën was inspired by the Eiffel Tower and by the works of Jules Verne and dreamed of becoming an engineer. After graduating with an engineering degree, Citroën went on a trip to Poland to see his mother’s birthplace. There, he saw a carpenter working with a gear that had a “fish bone” structure. Citroën realized that such gears could be used in automobiles to make them quieter and more efficient. He bought the patent from the carpenter, then tweaked the designs until he came up with the automotive double helical gear. The Mors auto company successfully integrated these gears to make better cars, and by 1906 Citroën was the company’s director. With the outbreak of World War I, factories were being converted to produce weapons, and Citroën soon became world-renowned for increasing factory productivity. He took charge of fellow car-maker Renault’s large plant, now having its 35,000 employees making armaments. Citroën’s work played a key role in ensuring the Allies were well-armed and helping them win the war. Following the war, Citroën founded his own Citroën automobile company in 1919. Within just a dozen years, it became the world’s fourth largest car manufacturer. The company was most famous for its executive Traction Avant model, which pioneered a number of revolutionary features including independent suspensions on all four wheels and front-wheel drive. Investing so much money into research and development ultimately drove the company to bankruptcy and it was bought out by its tire maker Michelin. Citroën died the following year from cancer. He was buried in Paris’ famous Montparnasse Cemetery, with a traditional Jewish ceremony presided by Paris’ chief rabbi. A number of streets and parks in the city are named after him, and in 1998 Citroën was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, his company retained his original vision, and continued to pioneer many new technologies (like modern disc brakes, self-leveling suspensions, and swiveling headlights), becoming one of the most iconic car brands in the world.

Should You Wear a Red String On Your Wrist?

Words of the Week

If someone says,“I have worked hard, and I have not been successful,” don’t believe him. If someone says,“I have not worked hard and I have been successful,” don’t believe him. If someone says,“I have worked hard and I have been successful,” believe him!
– Talmud (Megillah 6b)

The double helical gear inspired the Citroën logo.

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