Life Stories

Alma and Alberto Piaia – an artist couple in Nazi occupied Europe

Alma Vizla was born in 1915 in the small Latvian town of Opekalna. There is an almost total lack of information about her family. The only thing known is that her (probably older) brother Viktor became an acclaimed soccer player – which points to the increasing popularity of the physical culture movement flourishing at that Read More…

Life Stories

From ethnological expositions in circuses to the Federal Intelligence Service of Germany – the eventful life of Theodor Wonja Michael (1925-2019)

Theodor Wonja Michael was born in Berlin in January 1925. He was the youngest of four children of the Cameroonian colonial migrant Theophilus Wonja Michael and his German wife Martha, who originated from Posen (Poznań). When he was one year old, his mother died of a severe illness. Out of economic need, his father joined Read More…

Life Stories

Therese Zauser – The incredible story of an internationally known dancer and circus artist

Therese Zauser was born on December 4, 1910 in Feldkirch/ Austria. Her father Johann was the court clerk’s chief director at the Feldkirch Public Prosecutor’s Office. In his spare time, he was a passionate angler and therefore also chairman of the Fisheries District Committee. Her mother Theresa was a housewife and part-time zither teacher. Therese Read More…

Life Stories

Jacques Queyrois:  Political Activist and Owner of the Circus Karmah. From Fakir Acts to the French Resistance 

Albert Queyrois, a Frenchman also known by the stage name Karmah, lived a life full of eclecticism and change. He also possessed an uncanny ability to incite political provocation. Born in Bordeaux in 1893, he was originally a cabinetmaker by trade, working in Faubourg Saint-Antoine in Paris. His father, Jean Queyrois, earned his living as a carpenter. His mother, Catherine Despéries, was Read More…

Life Stories

From circus acrobat to Resistance fighter: the story of Raymond Gurême

Raymond Gurême was born in 1925 near Paris into a French Manouche (i.e. Sinti in French) family. As did several generations of the family before them, his parents owned a small circus and a travelling cinema: the family toured France and parts of Belgium and Switzerland where they were warmly received in villages deprived of Read More…

Life Stories

The escape of the Schauerjans family to Switzerland in 1943

The transcript of the escape story of the Schauerjans family is the result of a collaboration between descendants of the circus family and the French historian Laurence Prempain. Until 1943, Rosa (born 1902) and François Jacob Schauerjans (1903) lived with their children Edwige (born 1928) and Roger (born 1938) in Grenoble, France. Two versions of Read More…

Life Stories

The Esther family and its strategy to survive WWII

After WWI, Baptiste Esther (1893-1973) and his wife Méli Falck (1896-1955) run with their children a small circus. About the daughters Rita and Zélie Esther we know that they worked with horses. Baptiste Esther trained also his Spanish godson Marius Swils who lived with the family and later became an agile horse rider. The Esthers Read More…

Life Stories

Dark Stars: An Arab-German Circus Family during the Third Reich

“He had a spectacular scar that split his palm from index finger to his wrist,” recalls Bertrand Laurence of his strongman-acrobat grandfather, Houssein ben Ibrik. “It was from his early years in Morocco. To stop the attacking blade, he’d grabbed the sword of a pirate mounted on a camel. With his other hand, he swung Read More…

Life Stories

Rodion Nikitins (14.4.1915*) – A circus artist’s journey as an entertainer through Soviet and National Socialist occupation

The Latvian-born circus performer Rodion Nikitins lived through WWII performing in different circuses and theatres in Latvia, Germany and Nazi-occupied Prague. In his autobiography Of Flight and Freedom from 1987, Nikitins confesses that his work as an entertainer gave him more opportunities and options during WWII than those available to his family members or friends Read More…

Life Stories

Edit Sandor Kleinbarth (1931- ), a circus child during the war

Edit Sandor Kleinbarth was born in Budapest in 1931. Her parents were Sandor and Elise Kleinbarth. Her father came from a “private” Hungarian family. He had learned the art of school riding in the Czech Circus Henry. Also, he developed and presented animal revues with monkeys, ponies and donkeys. Her mother, however, came from the Read More…