google10fa0980c6101c7f.html The Many Faces of Death: DEATH of The 'IronKing' - Siegmund (Zishe) Breitbart, POLAND


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Friday, September 23, 2011

2 DEATH of The 'IronKing' - Siegmund (Zishe) Breitbart, POLAND

Siegmund Breitbart (Yiddish: זיגמונד ברייטברט), (February 22, 1893 - October 12, 1925), also known popularly as Zishe or Sische Breitbart (Yiddish: זישה ברייטברט), was a Polish-born circus performer, vaudeville strongman and Jewish folklore hero. He was known as the "Strongest Man in the World" and Eisenkönig ("The Ironking") during the 1920s.

Breitbart was born into an Orthodox Jewish family of blacksmiths near Łódź. He traveled and performed extensively in Europe and America, touring with the Circus Busch, arguably the largest circus in the world at the time. He gained American citizenship in 1923.

His Acts of Strength
Breitbart's strength acts were themed to fit his background as a blacksmith. He bent iron bars around his arm in floral patterns, bit through iron chains or tore them apart. He could also break a horseshoe in half, hold back two horses who were whipped, pull a wagon-load of people with his teeth or support enormous weight, such as an automobile loaded with up to 10 passengers, while lying on his back. One of the popular feats among the strongmen of the era was called the Tomb of Hercules, and Breitbart made it a part of his act: a bridge was built across his chest and heavy animals (bulls, an elephant, etc.) paraded over it. He took it a step further, supporting a moto-dome in which two men chased each other on motorcycles on his chest. Three tombstones were placed on his chest while two men hammered away with sledgehammers. He lifted a baby elephant, and while holding on to the elephant, he climbed a ladder and held a locomotive wheel by rope in his teeth while three men were suspended from the wheel.
Breitbart became a legend and took on the proportions of a national hero in Europe and America, only to die at the age of 42. In a demonstration in which he drove a spike through five 1-inch-thick (25 mm) oak boards resting on one of his knees using only his bare hands, his knee was accidentally pierced. The wound became infected, which led to fatal blood poisoning. Both legs were amputated in an effort to stem the infection, but the operation failed to help him. Breitbart succumbed after eight weeks. He is buried in a cemetery in Berlin. 

His life was fictionalized as Zishe Breitbart in Werner Herzog's 2001 film Invincible. Breitbart's part was played by legendary Finnish strongman Jouko Ahola.

His life was also the inspiration for the children's book Zishe the Strongman by Robert Rubenstein.


  1. When I was 6 years old I saw a woman (in Zagreb) doing the nail trick.

    She drove a 12cm nail through 5 cm thick wooden board (BUK!) with her fist and a handkerchief...

    And then she pulled it out with her teeth!...

  2. Fascinating! I would have love to have seen that!