What size was Hitler’s jacket?

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - TES­TI­MONY PE­TER ROSEN­GARD

DO YOU know any 14-16year-olds who have af­ter-school jobs th­ese days? When I was a teenager in the 1960s ev­ery­body had one. Health and Safety must have put a stop to them — the risks are just too great. They could be rad­i­calised by your lo­cal deli or menswear shop owner and sent to work in a So­das­tream fac­tory on the West Bank with Scar­lett Jo­hans­son or kid­napped, drugged and forced to be Jeremy Cor­byn’s stylist.

My job at Smart We­ston’s menswear shop on Shep­herds Bush Green changed my life: I was des­tined from birth to be a den­tist (my mother wanted to say “My son’s a den­tist of Jewish ex­trac­tion”). I would never have dis­cov­ered I was born to be a sales­man if I hadn’t wit­nessed the per­for­mances of Phillip and Martin, two young menswear sales­men from Stam­ford Hill. Lis­ten­ing to Martin sell Sun­day Suits to Ir­ish­men was an un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Just in to­day from the House of Sh­mut­ter Sir… from their new Mi­lan Au­tumn col­lec­tion… their brand new Pe­sach range with the Lok­shen stripes and Ital­ian boxed jacket. It’s YOU Sir… and yours for only six pounds 17 and six­pence.

Last week­end, I dropped in to see my friend Mo in his West End menswear shop. “What hap­pened to your trousers,” Mo asked. “You’ve got bleach marks all over them.”

‘‘Un­for­tu­nately, my cleaner didn’t un­der­stand the ‘no chlo­rine bleach’ warn­ing on the la­bel be­fore she put them in the wash­ing ma­chine.” I said. “Did you say any­thing to her?”. “I texted her.” ”What did she say?” “‘I’m preg­nant and have gone back to the Philip­pines.’”

“Mo, can I work in your shop to­day? I’d like to sell some clothes… it’s been a long time. I’m a very good sales­man. I’ll sell a lot of clothes for you.” “Are you se­ri­ous?” “Ab­so­lutely.” “OK, get started.” Af­ter two hours not a sin­gle per­son had come into the shop. “It’s very quiet here, I don’t like it. Where are all the cus­tomers? Isn’t this meant to be your busiest day?”

“You know some­thing, I think you’re right.” he said.

“Mo, try stand­ing in the door­way and smil­ing. Men like to buy boxer shorts from sales­men who smile.” “How do you know that?” “I read it in the pa­per. There was a boxer shorts poll.” Half-an-hour later Mo smiled at me and started to try and sell me a coat.

“Try this coat on — it’s a £7,000 Ralph Lau­ren leather coat. I got it at a char­ity shop: Go on touch it.”

It was the soft­est thing I’d ever touched since Don­ald Trump sent me a sou­venir lock of his hair af­ter I once stayed in at Trump Tower in New York.

I tried it on and looked in the mir­ror. “What do you think,” Mo asked.

“I think I look like a short, over­weight, mid­dle-aged Jewish man in a coat made for a cross be­tween a mem­ber of the Har­lem Globetrotters and Mike Tyson.” “It looks good on you.” “Mo — my hands stop six inches short of the cuffs and the bot­tom is drag­ging along the floor.” “You’ll grow into it.” “How much is it?’’ “£250.” “I thought you said it was a £7,000 coat.”

“That’s when it was brand new at Ralph Lau­ren.”

“He’s gone you know. Re­tired. Do you know what his real name is? Lif­s­chitz!

“Who?” “Ralph Lau­ren,” I said. “He changed it.”

Still on the sub­ject of Ralph Lau­ren (pic­tured), Mo said: “You can’t blame him. And then: “A month ago, a man walked into the shop and sold me a black vin­tage leather coat — I liked it, so I kept it for my­self. That night, I found some­thing sewed into the lin­ing, a very faded iden­tity card in Ger­man; I could just make out it had a swastika on it. My jacket’s ‘one pre­vi­ous owner’ was a Nazi!”

A swastika!? ‘‘You didn’t hap­pen to find a well thumbed copy of Mein Kampf? How about a very tightly rolled up parachute? It wasn’t Ru­dolf Hess’s fly­ing jacket by any chance?” “How would I know?” “Were there any ini­tials… an A or an H, on the la­bel? “What size jacket did Hitler wear — a 38 or a 40 chest?”

“How would I know what size jacket Hitler wore? He died 70 years ago!”

“What did you do with the jacket?” “I called him.” “What did he say?” “He said: ‘What’s the prob­lem?’”

“’What did you say?” “Oh noth­ing — “ex­cept that ‘I’m Jewish and you sold me a jacket that be­longed to a Nazi. Apart from that it’s a re­ally nice jacket.’ He took it back.”

I never got to make a sale but Mo did: If any 7ft tall very heav­ily built read­ers want a black leather coat then please con­tact me as soon as pos­si­ble.


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