Zishe (Siegmund) Breitbart (February 22 1883–October 12 1925) was a Polish-born circus performer, vaudeville strongman and Jewish folklore hero. He was known as the "Strongest Man in the World" and "The Ironking" during the 1920s, and was born into an Orthodox Jewish family of blacksmiths in Łódź. He traveled and performed extensively in Europe and America. He gained American citizenship in 1923.
For a brief period preceding the Holocaust, and at a time of presumed weakness, the Jews had a strongman as a hero who was the idol of worshiping children, who defended his people, and wanted them to be strong. Facing continuing challenges from other strongmen and relentless anti-Semites who at every turn were determined to defame him, and thereby his people, only made his astonishing feats more sensational, especially in prewar Germany. Breitbart symbolized the strength, determination, and perseverance of the Jews. His fiery self-confidence and haunting little speeches stirred the increasingly downtrodden Jews against a growing wave of antisemitism.
Breitbart became a legend and took on the proportions of a national hero in Europe and America, only to die tragically and ironically at the age of 42. In a demonstration in which he drove a spike through five one-inch thick oak boards resting on one of his knees using only his bare hands, his knee was accidentally pierced. The spike was rusty and caused an infection, which led to fatal blood poisoning. Both legs were amputated in an effort to stem the infection, but they failed. Zishe Breitbart succumbed after eight weeks. He is buried in a cemetery in Berlin.