The Subversive Act

Creation in Crisis

Feb 18 2022 • 27 mins

This episode is about the multicultural, multiethnic communities of travelling circuses and how they confronted the racist ideology of the Nazis.

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, they wanted to use the popularity of traveling circuses to spread cultural propaganda. The circus was, after all, about ideal, disciplined, extra-human bodies. However, many traveling circuses were either owned by or employed performers and workers from diverse communities, including Jewish, Roma and Sinti. The Nazis set out to 'purify' the circus - but met a renegade force to be reckoned with. Belonging to minority backgrounds, trained in the physical arts and always on the move, traveling circus artists of the era don't feature much in history books, nor did they write many. Though they made history, they disappeared from it. Some recent research projects have begun to unearth their stories of persecution and resistance.

Credits: Created by: Farhad Mirza and Declan Mee Presenter: Farhad Mirza Guest Contributors: Dr. Malte Gasche (University of Helsinki), Ariane Öchsner. Script: Farhad Mirza Script editors: Declan Mee, Zietra Møller. Sound engineering: Farhad Mirza Music: Farhad Mirza

Sources and suggested reading:     Diverging Fates research project, exploring the lives of traveling circus people during the Nazi era: Leni Riefenstahl and the way we see the Olympics: Jesse Owens and the defeat of Nazi dogmas at the 1936 summer Olympic games: Nazis and the 'Aryanization' of circus: Story of Theresa Zauser: Raymond Gurème: The Josef and Rosa Eisemann Story (in German): Adolf Althoff: