From Australia’s Jewish Past: Samuel Burmister –  From Sport to Entertainment

February 24, 2022 by Features Desk
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Samuel, known as Sam, was born in Estonia in 1897 and participated in the 1912 Olympics for Russia as a wrestler

Sam Burmister – The Modern Samson

With the situation in Russia worsening for Jews, he set off on a world tour ending in Australia in 1925.  He found the local wrestling scene so inviting that he decided to further his wrestling career in Australia.

Between 1925 and 1934 he had an active professional career, including winning the Australian Heavyweight title in 1929.  He was also World Jewish Wrestling Champion several times and the press labelled him as “a low-set, bull-necked, heavily-torsoed fellow”.  He was well-known and popular with audiences for his “vigorous methods’’.

He then returned to Russia for a period, returning to Australia in 1937 and settling in Brisbane.

In addition to his professional wrestling career, Sam was also a vaudeville performer and sideshow strongman, under the stage name “The Modern Samson“.  Anecdotally, one of the highlights of his routine included driving nails into a pine board with his fists and allowing a motor car to be driven across his chest.   He also had a small cameo role in the 1925 Australian film “Those Terrible Twins”.

In the late 1940’s, Sam switched from competitor to trainer, using his techniques to work with a number of Australian rugby league players.

Sam died unexpectedly on 4 October 1962 in Brisbane and is buried in the Jewish section of the Toowong Cemetery


The Australian Jewish Historical Society is the keeper of archives from the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 right up to today. Whether you are searching for an academic resource, an event, a picture or an article, AJHS can help you find that piece of historical material. The AJHS welcomes your contributions to the archives. If you are a descendent of someone of interest with a story to tell, or you have memorabilia which might be of significance for the archives, please make contact via or its Facebook page.


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