Measure of a Man: A Memoir by Martin Greenfield with Wynton Hall
Book Summary: Holocaust Survivor Martin Greenfield recounts and reflects on his improbable survival in the concentration camps, the value of family, God, the American Dream, and of course, the importance of a well-crafted suit.
My Real Person Review:
In the retelling of Martin Greenfield’s experience in the concentration camps, you cannot escape the knowledge that he should very well be dead, and that we are reading his memoir by either the grace of God, or pure luck. The detail in which he recalls his time in Auschwitz is devastating and heartbreaking. More than once I found myself in tears. The brutality and the pure inhumanity of the SS should come of no surprise to anyone, yet I often could not help but reread passages out of pure shock and utter disgust. His story is nothing short of harrowing, and in my opinion, you cannot come away from this memoir with anything but the utmost respect for Martin Greenfield for what he has been through, and the life he has built for himself.
In spectacular fashion (pun intended), Greenfield lives to see the liberation, finds his way to America, and becomes an undeniable success due to his determination and passion for life, fueled no doubt by his own father’s parting words.
I hate to admit it, because A) I’ve never been one to subscribe to the idea that the “clothes make the man,” and B) this seems like a really superficial takeaway from such a deep text, but after reading this Holocaust survivor’s story, I truly wanted to start dressing better. I don’t think anyone can make a better argument for wearing the best clothes you can at every opportunity than Martin Greenfield. You heard it here first: The first $4000 I make from my work at Ghost Editorial, might just be used to commission my very own suit from Mr. Greenfield.
My Editor’s Review:
In my experience as an editor, I’ve worked with a number of writers who have spoken English as a second language, and it is sometimes a challenge to keep their “voice” intact and authentic when editing their work to conform with standard English. Thus, one of the things that I was curious of while reading Measure of a Man, was what the actual writing and revision process entailed. Did Greenfield actually sit down and pen his own chapters? Did he orally recite what he wanted to say using a transcriber? How did it all work? Because as far as I can tell, the actual writing of the story is nearly flawless. The words convey the personality, humor, and strength of a survivor in a way that a ghost writer or transcriber could not easily accomplish. I suspect that Wyton Hall had a lot to do with the success of text, but I’d love to have been behind the scenes on this one.
Greenfield pulled no punches when writing about his time in Auschwitz. We’re not allowed any time to slowly adjust to reading a Holocaust memoir, instead, on the very first page we find ourselves at the feet of Josef Mengele. How this text was able to describe the horrific experience of Auschwitz in the beginning chapters, and transition smoothly through Greenfield’s life to his current success as a tailor is astounding. You can see the seeds of a future tailor when Greenfield is working in Auschwitz, and then you get to pleasure of watching those seeds grow when he comes to the United States. For those of you who have read my other reviews, one of my biggest issues when it comes to narratives is the lack of a logical progression in the storyline. That was not the case with this book.
From Auschwitz to America, from the Death March to the White House, each step of Greenfield’s journey was supported by the previous one. Martin Greenfield can certainly say that he fulfilled his father’s wishes, and honored his family by living.
Quotables from Measure of a Man:
“To this day I still don’t know why, but when I got up the courage, I slipped the soldier’s shirt on and wore it under my striped prisoner uniform. It was a crazy thing to do, because none of the other prisoners had a shirt. But I did it anyhow. From that day on, the soldiers treated me a little bit better. They thought I was somebody – someone who mattered, someone not to be killed.”
“Looking back, though, that moment in the camps marked the beginning of the rest of my life. Strangely enough, two ripped Nazi shirts helped this Jew build America’s most famous and successful custom-suit company. God has a wonderful sense of humor.”
“An endless line of tired, miserable-looking people snaked around a massive, wide building…’Things must be terrible here. These people are hungry? I’ve never seen so many people waiting in a breadline!’ ‘Sweetheart, that’s not a breadline,’ said Aunt Elka. ‘That’s Yankee Stadium!'”
“If you survive by yourself, you must honor us by living, by not feeling sorry for us. That is what you must do.”
Did you read this book? If so, leave me a comment with what you thought!
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