Martin Greenfield has been hailed “America’s greatest living tailor” and the “most interesting man in the world.” A Holocaust survivor, Mr. Greenfield makes suits for the world’s most powerful and influential men.
His new book, Measure of Man: From Auschwitz Survivor to Presidents’ Tailor, launches today.
In this excerpt, first seen at the New York Post, Greenfield explains how his time in the concentration camps nearly snuffed out his sense of humanity–and gave him the chance for ultimate revenge against one of his tormentors.
While at Buchenwald, the SS assigned me to work in the munitions factory. But early one morning after roll call, a soldier placed me on a 12-prisoner team to perform repairs outside the camp in nearby Weimar.
Working in the city was a welcome distraction from camp life. Sometimes you got lucky and spotted a potato in a field or smuggled a trinket to trade for food. Either way, it was a chance to see the sky, escape the stench of rotting corpses, and confirm that there was still a world beyond the barbed wire.
We loaded our gear and marched the few miles to Weimar. The soldiers stopped us in front of a bombed-out mansion, home to the mayor of Weimar. A big black Mercedes sat out front. The soldiers commanded us to sift the rubble, clear the debris, and begin repairs on the mansion.
I walked alone to the back of the estate to assess the damage. Dusty piles of broken bricks lay scattered across the yard. Seeing the cellar door ajar, I slowly opened it. A shaft of sunlight filled the dank cellar. On one side of the space sat a wooden cage wrapped in chicken wire. I walked closer and noticed two quivering rabbits inside the cage.
“They’re still alive!” I said to myself with surprise.
Inside the cage were the remains of the rabbits’ dinner. I unlatched the cage and pulled out a wilted leaf and carrot nub. The lettuce was browning and slimy, the carrot still moist from the rabbits’ gnawing. Excited, I wolfed down the lettuce and tried to crack the chunk of carrot in half with my teeth.
My luck was short-lived. “What are you doing?” a voice yelled.
I whipped my head around toward the door. A gorgeous, smartly dressed blond woman holding a baby stood silhouetted in the door frame. It was the mayor of Weimar’s wife.
“I . . . I found your rabbits!” I stammered with a cheerful nervousness. “They’re alive and safe!”
“Why in the hell are you stealing my rabbits’ food?” barked the woman. “Animals!” I stood silent and stared at the floor.
“I’m reporting this immediately!” she said, stomping away. My heart pounded in my emaciated chest. A few minutes later, an SS soldier ordered me to come out of the cellar. I knew what was coming, and the knowing made it all the worse.
Read the rest of the story here.