Auschwitz survivor and tailor to the stars dies at 95

Martin Greenfield learned to sew in Auschwitz and later became one of America’s best known tailors, making suits for presidents


C03APK Martin Greenfield tailor

(JNS) Master tailor Martin Greenfield gained a national reputation over the generations with his brand of fitted suits and men’s clothing worn by U.S. presidents and Hollywood celebrities alike. He died on March 20 at age 95.

Maximilian Grünfeld was born to a Jewish family on Aug. 9, 1928, in a region of Czechoslovakia now ruled by Ukraine.

In 1942, when barely a teen, he and his family, including his grandparents, were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz.

In his memoir, he describes learning to sew after accidentally ripping the shirt of a camp guard and being ordered to fix it. He began repairing clothes in the camp and was allowed special privileges such as extra food, allowing him to survive. 

He later wrote in his memoir, that “Two ripped Nazi shirts helped this Jew build America’s most famous and successful custom-suit company.”

Only he and his father survived the next few years, though his father died shortly before the concentration camp was liberated by Soviet troops on Jan. 27, 1945.

He recounted on video that when U.S. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower entered the camp months later, he shook his hand and told him that “he saved his life.”

On Sept. 18, 1947, poor and alone, he arrived in the United States, changing his name to Martin Greenfield and settling in New York City. He managed to get a job as a “floor boy” at a tailoring firm in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. Said to have learned the value of clothing from the Nazis, over the years, he made it a point to learn clothes-making skills as well as the production process.

“I wanted to be the best, to stand out,” he wrote in his autobiography Measure of a Man: A Memoir, From Auschwitz Survivor to Presidents’ Tailor.

Thirty years later, Greenfield bought the tailoring firm, renaming it Martin Greenfield Clothiers.

His suits developed a cult following, patronized by U.S. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Donald Trump; former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell; and businessman Michael Bloomberg, the three-term mayor of New York City. According to Yahoo! News, Greenfield was scheduled to hold a fitting for President George W. Bush on Sept. 11, 2001; it was canceled.

Greenfield’s clothes found fans not only in politics but in Hollywood, where his work appeared in the HBO gangster drama “Boardwalk Empire,” and the films “The Great Gatsby and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Celebrities who wore his handiwork include Frank Sinatra and Paul Newman. Top professional athletes also called on the tailor’s company, such as LeBron James and the 7ft 1 Shaquille O’Neal, whose suit  “required enough suit fabric to make a small tent.”

It was noted that since Greenfield missed his bar mitzvah due to World War II and the Holocaust, he eventually celebrated the Jewish milestone at the age of 80.

He was known to say, in his accented English, that he “loved America” for the refuge and opportunity it gave him.

He is survived by his wife, Arlene (nee Bergen); sons Jay Greenfield and Tod Greenfield; and four grandchildren.

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