But before Martin was a successful tailor to the rich and famous, he was Maximilian Grunfeld. He was born on August 9, 1928, in Pavlovo, Czechoslovakia. In 1944, when Martin was just 15, Nazi soldiers surrounded the tiny village where Martin and his family lived. The Jews were given one hour to pack up their belongings before being loaded onto cattle cars and shipped to Auschwitz. Upon arriving at the concentration camp, Martin was separated from his family. His parents, grandparents and siblings (two older sisters and a younger brother) were all taken away, and Martin never saw them again. He later found out that they were all put to death.
|Grunfeld family (minus the baby brother)|
When Martin was in one of the concentration camps, he was assigned to work in the laundry. One day he was washing of one of the Nazi uniforms when he scrubbed the collar too hard and it tore. Martin was beaten for this, of course, but when the Nazi soldier left, one of the other Jews working in the laundry taught him how to mend the shirt. This was Martin's first experience with sewing. Martin emigrated to America two years after the war ended, and he lived with some long-lost relatives. This was when he anglicized his name from Maximilian Grunfeld to Martin Greenfield in an attempt to give himself a fresh start. He started working for GGG Clothing, one of the largest clothing manufacturers of its day. Martin started working as a floor boy, and worked his way from the ground floor up. He worked hard over the years, climbing the ranks and doing whatever he could to be the best hand made tailor he could. 30 years later, Martin bought the GGG factory. He's still running it to this day, with his sons, Jay and Tod. Incredible!
One thing I loved most about Martin is his love of family. He talked about his absolute disdain for people who take their family for granted and cut them off with almost no thought for the precious gift they are discarding. Martin would have given ANYthing to have even one of his family members back, after all of them had been murdered. It made him so angry to think of people choosing to disown their own family members. When Martin moved to America he couldn't wait to get married and have children, and he truly longed for the day when he would get his second chance to have a family. That's why I think it's so special that Martin and his sons work together.
Measure of a Man was such a great book. I had to leave out SO many details, but just know that this book is definitely worth the read. Martin is one fascinating, talented and hard-working man!
Picture of Martin, shortly before emigrating to America (front, left in suit). Below that is a picture of Martin and his wife, Arlene, who Martin married in 1956.