He's been called "America's greatest living tailor" and "the most interesting man in the world." Now, for the first time, Holocaust survivor Martin Greenfield tells his incredible life story. Taken from his Czechoslovakian home at age fifteen and transported to the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz with his family, Greenfield came face to face with "Angel of Death" Dr. Joseph Mengele and was divided forever from his parents, sisters, and baby brother.
In haunting, powerful prose, Greenfield remembers his desperation and fear as a teenager alone in the death campand how an SS soldier's shirt dramatically altered the course of his life. He learned how to sew; and when he began wearing the shirt under his prisoner uniform, he learned that clothes possess great power and could even help save his life.
Measure of a Man is the story of a man who suffered unimaginable horror and emerged with a dream of success. From sweeping floors at a New York clothing factory to founding America’s premier custom suit company, Greenfield built a fashion empire. Now 86 years old and working with his sons, Greenfield has dressed the famous and powerful of D.C. and Hollywood, including Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, celebrities Paul Newman, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jimmy Fallon, and the stars of Martin Scorsese's films.
Written with soul-baring honesty and, at times, a wry sense of humor, Measure of a Man is a memoir unlike any otherone that will inspire hope and renew faith in the resilience of man.
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About the Author
MARTIN GREENFIELD was born in the village of Pavlovo, Czechoslovakia, in 1928. The only member of his family to survive the Holocaust, he made his way to the United States in 1947. He and his sons run Martin Greenfield Clothiers in Brooklyn, New York, the leading American maker of hand-tailored menswear. The tailor to the world's most powerful and influential men, Greenfield lives on Long Island with his wife, Arlene.
WYNTON HALL is the owner of Wynton Hall & Co., a celebrity ghostwriting agency responsible for several New York Times bestsellers. The author or collaborator of sixteen books, Hall’s published work has appeared in the New York Times , USA Today , San Francisco Chronicle , Daily Beast , Breitbart , Politico , and several others. Hall lives with his wife and daughters in Florida.
Read an Excerpt
From Chapter Two: Inside Auschwitz
Day and night the ovens burned. The smoke spewed up from the soaring brick chimney and belched the vaporous remnants of corpses into the air. At night you could see the flames spitting against the blackened sky. Still, no one in the camps talked to me about the crematoria. Whether that was because I was just a boy or because I no longer had a father by my side to speak piercing truths to me, I do not know. But I could smell that something was horribly wrong.
After morning roll call, we were given something approximating black coffee. To be sick or weak was dangerous, so no matter how rancid the gruel or vile the smell, I forced myself to eat. The afternoon slop was usually some sort of soup that frequently had human hair, trash, or dead insects floating in it. Sundown brought black bread mixed with sawdust. Soup made you skinny. Bread made strength. So I ate as much bread as I could scavenge and always tried to cover my wounds with my clothes.
My labor assignment in the laundry lasted several days before I was moved to the sorting room, which housed the confiscated wares of newly arrived prisoners. The space was filled with fifty or so prisoners combing and sifting mountains of clothes, shoes, and other possessions. Sometimes a prisoner stumbled upon a hidden morsel of food folded inside a bag or tucked inside a coat pocket. Prisoners caught trying to sneak a bite were promptly whipped by a kapo, who often smuggled the food or ate it himself.
Between the rummaging and sorting I peeked over and around piles every chance I got in the hopes of spotting a family member. That’s all I wanted: one glimpse, a single fleeting confirmation they were still alive. But it never came. Looking back now I realize that false, cruel wish, like an invisible ladder whose rungs materialized based on hope, compelled me to reach for survival.
The weeks passed and the piles got smaller and smaller until transports of new prisoners slowed to a trickle. The Nazis reassigned me to the bricklaying teams. Allied bombs were busting up brick buildings everywhere, so our services were in high demand. I knew nothing about masonry. A prisoner who served as a team leader stuck a trowel in my one hand and a mortar bucket in the other before walking me to a block of bricks. There I learned the finer points of bricklaying before being put to work.
The work was hard and the days were long, and my wire-thin teenage frame did its best to keep up with the older, stronger men. For some reason, slathering and smoothing the mortar across the faces of the bricks made my thoughts float to Pavlovo and brought back scenes of Grandma Geitel icing freshly baked cakes. Before long I had perfected my ability to detach my mind from my physical form, and my body sped up as my thoughts slowed down.
Even so, no matter how hard we worked, our captors would slay prisoners without provocation.
Killings were frequent and random. One day a boy from my block and I were tasked with building a brick wall. We started just after morning line up. By late afternoon we had completed a good stretch of the wall and felt a certain pride in our accomplishment. We stacked the bricks higher and higher until it stood some five or six feet tall. We talked while working to unclench our minds. A single gunshot rang out, but I didn’t think much of it. The crack of rifle fire and the spraying of machineguns were common, so I kept stacking and talking. I asked the boy a question and got no reply.
I asked again.
I swiveled my head in his direction. Several yards away, the boy lay motionless, facedown in the dirt inside an expanding pool of blood. I later learned a Nazi had used the boy for target practice.
At home in Pavlovoand in most civilizationsa clear moral order structured our daily lives. Hard work, justice, fairness, integritythese virtues produced predictable fruits. But not in the concentration camps. The Germans killed for any reason or none at all. It was futile to try to discern their logic, because there was none. If a Nazi was angry, he might kill you. If a Nazi was happy, he might kill you. It made no difference.
The dehumanizing randomness of the murders suffocated my sense of hope, just as Hitler and his henchmen had intended. What appeared random was, in fact, not random at all. It was a systematic psychological lynching, a strangling of the human heart’s need to believe in the rewards of goodness, a snapping of the moral hinge on which humanity swings. Soon, and much to my shame, I became anesthetized to death, numb to depravity. Some primal survival switch inside me had been temporarily flicked on that allowed me to submerge the emotions generated by the evil scorching my eyes.
I witnessed dozens of shootings and helped carry scores of corpses. Sometimes a dead body would be intact and appear to be sleeping. Other times a bullet would rip through a prisoner spilling out organs. Or shatter a skull, exposing chunks of brain. But as the days passed, no matter its condition, a body soon became just a body, a sallow, bloodless, gangling object that must be lugged, heaved atop a pile, or dropped in a hole.
At fifteen, I had become an undertaker.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Meeting Mengele 1
Chapter 2 Inside Auschwitz 17
Chapter 3 The Death March 31
Chapter 4 Ike Arrives 45
Chapter 5 A Time to Kill 59
Chapter 6 Coming to America 79
Chapter 7 GGG 97
Chapter 8 The Beautiful People 123
Chapter 9 The Tailors' Tailor 151
Chapter 10 Dressing Presidents and Politicians 175
Chapter 11 Suit Maker to the Stars 199
Chapter 12 Bar Mitzvah at Eighty 217
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read this book in less than two flights, and found myself wishing the book had been even longer. What a captivating, moving and entertaining story. The stories of his stay at the different concentration camps were tough to read, but not in a gratuitous way, thanks to the author's pervasive sense of optimism and gratitude for the life he was able to lead after leaving the camps. And what a life! The tales of living in America as an immigrant in the late 40's and 50's were charming and engrossing- the man has interacted with so many famous people it almost reminds you of a real life Forest Gump. Stories about Presidents and entertainers highlight the latter portion of the book, as does the light but informative discussion about the finer points of men's fashion. I definitely recommend this book for anyone who likes positive, uplifting tales of triumph in the face of adversity with an underpinning theme of hope, humor and gratitude.
It's important to keep stories like this one alive. They are first-hand tales of heinous, unbelievable actions against humanity. Martin is an uplifting story-teller, and clearly a man who spent a life learning, dreaming, and achieving.
Measure of a Man is the memoir of renowned tailor, Martin Greenfield. It begins when he was boy, with the separation from his family and his subsequent experiences in a German concentration camp. There, he experienced the horrors of human cruelty. The events are recounted with great detail, so the reader gets a strong sense of the atrocities that occurred. It was in the concentration camp where Martin got his first lessons in tailoring, and learned that clothes possess power. When he wore a torn Nazi shirt under his prison garb that he had accidentally torn while cleaning, he was treated a notch better. Miraculously, Martin survived the concentration camp and death march. After the liberation, Martin discovered he had family in the United States. He immigrated to New York and started working at the famous clothier's, "GGG Clothiers," where he learned the ins and outs of the tailoring business. The remainder of the book describes his rise to success and the many famous clients he served. Measure of a Man is an inspiring story of how one man overcame extreme adversity and achieved the American Dream. Readers interested in Holocaust survivor stories, history, fashion, and inspirational books, will find this to be an excellent read. Highly recommended.
I happened upon this autobiography at our local library. I checked it out and quickly became immersed in Martin's story. Once he emerges from the horrors of Auschwitz, the book evolves into one of the most positive and uplifting books I have read in quite some time. I then purchased a copy to give as a gift.
Should be required in schools. From Auschwitz to America. Showing how hard work, determination and love of a new country can change a life! A remarkable true story!
Man's inhumanity to Man and the Power of enduring strength and faith.