israel kristal
Marco Frigatti, head of records at Guinness World Records, with the world's oldest living man, Israel Kristal

An Israeli Holocaust survivor has been officially named as the world's oldest living man at the age of 112 years, 178 days. Israel Kristal, who lived through two world wars and survived Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz, was handed the title by Guinness World Records (GWR) at his home in Haifa on 11 March.

Kristal, who is deeply religious and believes his life was saved by God, said: "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.

"There have been smarter, stronger and better looking men then me who are no longer alive. All that is left for us to do is to keep on working as hard as we can and rebuild what is lost."

It comes after the previous record holder, Yasutaro Koide, of Japan, died in January at the age of 112 years, 312 days. The oldest living person is Susannah Mushatt Jones, from the USA, who is 116 years, 249 days old as of 11 March 2016.

Marco Frigatti, head of records for Guinness World Records, said of Kristal's achievement: "This record category continues to be one of particular human interest and we have been able to verify that as the new oldest living man, Mr Kristal's achievement is remarkable – he can teach us all an important lesson about the value of life and how to stretch the limits of human longevity."

Kristal was born to Jewish parents near the town of Zarnow in Poland in 1903 – a year in which Stalin joined the Bolsheviks in Tsarist Russia, Ford produced its first car and King Edward VII was made British Emperor of India.

He survived the First World War after becoming separated from his parents when he was just 11. In 1920 he moved to Łódź in Poland to work in the family confectionery business. Following the Nazi invasion of Poland and the occupation of Łódź, Kristal was moved into the Łódź ghetto with his family in 1939.

Four years later he was sent to Auschwitz. Kristal lost his wife, Chaja Feige Frucht, and their two children in the Holocaust.

Kristal himself survived, performing back-breaking slave labour in Auschwitz and other concentration camps. He was rescued from the brink of death by the Allies in May 1945, weighing only 37 kilos (5 stones 8 pounds).

A sole survivor of a large family, he emigrated in 1950 to the city of Haifa in Israel with his second wife and their son. Since that time, Kristal continued to grow both his family and his successful confectionery business until his retirement.

Born to a Jewish Orthodox family, Kristal never had a bar mitzvah, the traditional Jewish ceremony when a boy turns 13, due to the hardships of the First World War. However, he has continuously and rigorously been performing the commandment of phylacteries (tefillin) every morning for the last century, with the exception of the Holocaust and both world wars.

After being crowned world's oldest man, Japan's Koide credited his longevity to abstinence from alcohol and cigarettes. But in a 2012 interview for Haaretz, Kristal gave no such advice, instead saying: "It's no great bargain. Everyone has their own good fortune. It's from heaven. There are no secrets."

His daughter, Shula Kuperstoch, told The Jerusalem Post her father has kept his faith throughout his life, adding: "The Holocaust did not affect his beliefs. My father is someone who is always happy. He is optimistic, wise, and he values what he has.

"His attitude to life is everything in moderation. He eats and sleeps moderately, and says that a person should always be in control of their own life and not have their life control them, as far as this is possible.

"He believes he was saved because that's what God wanted. He is not an angry person, he is not someone who seeks to an accounting, he believes everything has a reason in the world."

The oldest person ever to have lived is also a woman, Jeanne Calment, who was born in France in 1875, and lived to 122 years and 164 days.