One of the world’s most successful men’s clothiers, who is also a Holocaust survivor, Martin Greenfield, tells his life story, from survival, to building a business, and even advising President Eisenhower in his new memoir Measure of a Man.
The 86-year-old Czech native founded and owns Martin Greenfield Clothiers. After surviving both the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps, he came to America penniless in 1947 at the age of 19.
One shocking story in the book is how when taken outside of Buchenwald to the city of Weimar on a work detail a blonde German woman saw him trying to get just a little bit of food from some rabbits who were eating some vegetables in a burnt out house. The woman was none other than the wife of the city’s mayor. She took great pleasure in informing on Greenfield to the camp guards who proceeded to give him an awful beating.
Greenfield swore revenge and after the camp was liberated he went out in search of the woman. He found her, held a gun to her, but could not bring himself to pull the trigger.
“I froze. I couldn’t do it. I could not pull the trigger. That was the moment I became human again. All the old teachings came rushing back. I had been raised to believe that life was a precious gift from God, that women and children must be protected, ” wrote Greenfield.
“Had I pulled the trigger, I would have been like Mengele. He, too, had faced mothers holding babies — my mother holding my baby brother — and sentenced both to gruesome deaths. My moral upbringing would not allow me to become an honorary member of the SS.”
While starting out as a tailor, Greenfield had the opportunity to make a custom suit for General Eisenhower in 1949, who was then serving as the President of Columbia University. Greenfield continued to make Eisenhower his suits after he became president.
This was the case during the 1956 Suez War when Israel, with the support of England and France, occupied the Sinai Peninsula while the two European nations occupied the Suez Canal. Greenfield did not like the Eisenhower Administration’s treatment of Israel during the war. So, he claims, he took it upon himself to leave the President notes in the pockets of his new suits.
The first note read, “If you want to end the Suez Crisis, you’ll send Dulles on a two-week vacation.”