The first time Martin Greenfield took up needle and thread was at Auschwitz, to mend the shirt of the SS guard who had just beaten him. Today he is recognized as “America’s greatest living tailor,” the man who dresses presidents and movie stars.
Measure of a Man is Greenfield’s story. More than an unforgettable account of survival and triumph, it’s the testimony of a man who came of age amid the darkest evil in modern history but never lost hope.
The Nazis came for the Jews in Greenfield’s Carpathian village in 1944. Separated from his parents and siblings as soon as they arrived at Auschwitz, Martin was the only one of his family to survive the Holocaust. “Where was God?” he asked the rabbi who arrived with Eisenhower’s liberating army a year later at Buchenwald.
Greenfield arrived in America in 1947, nineteen years old and penniless. He went to work as a floor boy at a Brooklyn clothing factory and quickly became a virtuoso tailor, making suits for the president and the biggest names in Hollywood. Within thirty years he owned the firm.
(Synopsis from book jacket. This is only a partial of the story synopsis.)
Measure of a Man is a very inspirational novel written by Martin Greenfield. Greenfield’s novel is the April read for the Pi Beta Phi virtual book club, Pi Phi Pages. This was another remarkable pick and a great novel for those interested in not only World War II history, but also those seeking an inspirational story of a man pursuing his dreams despite incredible circumstances.
Measure of a Man is not just simply a novel about surviving the Holocaust, but Greenfield’s story is a remarkable one. At a young age Greenfield entered Auschwitz with his family after spending the night on the cattle car which had brought them to the hell that waited beyond the gates. However, even before Martin entered these gates, he had already learned how to survive on his own while he was in Budapest.
While in Auschwitz, Martin was immediately separated from every one of his family members except for his father. But it was only a matter of days before Martin was completely on his own within the camps and his father told him, “Together we will never survive, because working together we will suffer one for the other. We will suffer double. We must separate…On your own, you will survive. You are young and strong, and I know you will survive. If you survive by yourself, you must honor us by living, by not feeling sorry for us. That is what you must do” (pg. 8). These words would continue to inspire Martin throughout his life.
Martin was eventually transferred to Buchenwald where he would stay until he and the other surviving prisoners until the camp was liberated by the Americans led by General Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1945. But through the trial of merely trying to survive himself, Martin did everything he could to help out his fellow prisoners as well. Throughout his time at the camps, Martin had different jobs in the hospital where he would risk his own safety by sneaking extra rations of bread to sick prisoners or taking their places during roll call when they were too weak to get up, even though the doctors knew what he was doing.
After Martin embarked out on his own, he was determined to do everything he could to build a new life for himself, while also searching for his family. While Martin would never find his immediate family, aunts and uncles on his mother’s side would find him and send him the ticket that would bring him to the United States. It was in the United States that Martin would be able to craft a new life for himself with the love and support of his family.
Martin would become one of the best tailors that this country has seen. But more importantly, Martin fully embraced what it meant to be an American. He would understand the hardships and difficult decisions that numerous presidents would have to make. Martin would k,now what it meant to build a loving family and to be a part of something that mattered. Martin made sure that he learned English as soon as he could so that he could truly be able to communicate with those around him, even though plenty of people he knew spoke Yiddish. Marin also wanted to become the best at whatever it was he was learning.
This industrious spirit is spelled out in his book Measure of a Man where he shares his story full of honesty and his own humor. Martin shares his incredible story of being a young man who has lost everything, to a man who has built a business on his integrity, honest and hard-work. I found this novel to be very inspirational and amazing. It was great to see the pride that Martin had in his new country as he built his future.