My Holocaust Revenge-Part I
The following is excerpted from "Measure of a Man: From Auschwitz Survivor to Presidents' Tailor" (Regnery) by Martin Greenfield with Wynton Hall. Greenfield, an 84-year-old Holocaust survivor, owns and operates Martin Greenfield Clothiers in Brooklyn, NY. The Heritage is running this excerpt in two parts because of its length.
I made a vow: If I survived Buchenwald, I would return and kill the mayor's wife.
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," a man who dresses presidents and movie stars.
Deported from Czechoslovakia at age 15 to Auschwitz, Greenfield came face to face with Dr. Mengele and was separated from his family. He was liberated from Buchenwald, the only one of his family to survive.
Greenfield arrived in America in 1947-age 19, alone and penniless. He began sweeping floors at a New York clothing factory and became a virtuoso tailor, head of America's premier custom suit company. Along the way, he passed foreign policy advice to President Eisenhower by tucking notes into suit pockets.
The following excerpt from his new autobiography, "Measure of a Man: From Auschwitz Survivor to Presidents' Tailor" (Regnery), explains how the concentration camps nearly stripped him of his humanity at age 16 and the day he got it back.
The mayor's wife
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 doorframe. It was the mayor of Weimar's wife.
"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.
"Down on the ground, you dog! Fast!" yelled the German. He gripped his baton and bludgeoned my back. I do not know whether the mayor's wife watched the beating. Given her cruelty, why would she want to miss it? On the hike back to Buchenwald, I replayed the scene over and over in my mind.
How could a woman carrying her own child find a walking skeleton saving her pets and have him beaten for nibbling on rotten animal food? I thought.
I made a vow to myself: If I survived Buchenwald, I would return and kill the mayor's wife.
In that moment, my numbness to death melted. In its place rose an alien blood lust, a hunger for vengeance unlike any I had ever known. The surge of adrenaline and rush of rage felt good inside my withered frame.
Then and there I made a vow to myself: If I survived Buchenwald, I would return and kill the mayor's wife.
Part II in next week's Heritage.