UWith a tiger hair, Gerd Siemoneit-Barum would have suffered the same tragedy in 1954 as later Roy Horn, who in 2003 at a show with his partner Siegfried Fischbacher in the Hotel Mirage in Las Vegas was grabbed by his white tiger mantle core and injured so badly that he was injured could never occur again. The predator tamer Siemoneit-Barum, who has now died at the age of 90 in Einbeck, Lower Saxony, was attacked by one of his animals, the lioness Susi. But with presence of mind, one of his circus colleagues hit the big cat, whereupon it turned away from Siemoneit-Barum. Two missing links on his right index finger, which his lion Darius had bitten off in 1958, reminded him of the dangerousness of his job.
Siemoneit-Barum was an animal whisperer. At first horses willingly followed his instructions when he chased through the arena as a horse acrobat. Soon he switched to predators: tigers, lions, panthers, polar bears, brown bears, which he let appear in mixed groups. He was considered a luminary among the trainers, as the animal teachers called themselves at that time. His number with the black panther Onyx, which he caught with his arms and hands while jumping, was famous. To break the will of the animals, Siemoneit-Barum refused, he relied on partnership, trust and above all on rewarding the big cats with pieces of meat. With only a stick in hand, he stood before his animals like a concert conductor. Fortunately, he hardly had to fight with animal rights activists who want to forbid the keeping and demonstration of tigers and lions in the arena.
From kitchen boy to headmaster
His life did not follow the American path from dishwasher to millionaire, but his own circus path from kitchen boy to ringmaster. It was initiated by an advertisement in a Hamburg newspaper: “Daily: The Great Williams Circus Show. Hamburg at the Dammtor train station ”. That was in 1946, when the Hanseatic city was still largely in ruins, into which the mother, her two sons and their grandmother had ended up after fleeing from Gumbinnen in East Prussia in autumn 1944. The circus appeared to be an ideal, blissful world not only to the refugee boy, but to many of the starving and freezing city dwellers.
Gerd, who was 15 years old at the time, really wanted to go there – not as a spectator, but as a circus member, if possible as an artist. Though he couldn’t even do a handstand. On the spur of the moment, he escaped and asked Williams if they could use him. Siemoneit-Barum was lucky and was allowed to start as a kitchen boy. When his worried mother showed up four days later, the ringmaster assured her that something could well become of her son. She probably didn’t mean that the young man would one day run a circus, that the tamers of his day would look up to him and that he would be awarded a clown for his life’s work at the 1998 circus festival in Monte Carlo.
For almost four decades until 2008, Siemoneit-Barum directed his own circus, which he first called “Circus Safari” and later “Circus Barum”. His company, whose trademark was supposed to be a sparkling white tent, gave guest performances not only all over Germany, but also in European countries. As an excellent circus expert, Siemoneit-Barum commented on television broadcasts of the Monte Carlo circus festival for many years. On October 26th, 2008 he stood for the last time as a tamer in the ring, after which he gave up his profession and also his circus company. His daughter, Rebecca Siemoneit-Barum, who grew up as a circus child and was the artistic director of Circus Barum until 2008, also broke new ground. But she is best known as an actress from “Lindenstrasse”.