Manhasset survivor becomes presidential tailor
A Manhasset tailor overcame unspeakable odds to stitch together an extraordinary life.
For more than 60 years, Czech-born tailor Martin Greenfield has been making menswear the old-fashioned way. Every sleeve, every lapel, every buttonhole is handmade for clients who dress to impress.
He's made suits for presidents Eisenhower, Johnson, Ford, Clinton and Obama, as well as many of Hollywood's biggest stars.
But in 1944, a 15-year-old Greenfield was shipped to Auschwitz and was tattooed with a number on his left arm.
Assigned to laundry duty, Greenfield accidentally ripped a Nazi officer's shirt while scrubbing it. The mistake cost him a lashing but gave him an idea. Greenfield sewed the shirt back together again and wore it instead of his prison uniform. His new attire won him respect from the Nazi officer.
"When I walked through the front, he never stopped me. He thought I was somebody," says Greenfield.
That day in the death camp marked the beginning of the rest of his life. Greenfield learned the power of clothes and the strength of his will to survive. The rest of his family perished at the concentration camp.
After liberation, Greenfield came to America and got a job at GGG Clothing in Brooklyn and climbed the ranks from floor boy to factory manager. Thirty years later, Greenfield bought the business and named it after himself.
At age 87, Greenfield still works six days a week to make sure everything that bears his label honors the family he lost in the Holocaust and the one he created after coming to America.
"The victory for me is to be alive here and to be happy in what I do," says Greenfield.
The survivor runs Martin Greenfield Clothiers in Brooklyn with his two sons.