Famous World Leaders Who Were Almost Assassinated

Despite repeated assassination attempts, Hitler survived till he took is own life. Eva Braun, his wife for 40 minutes and long-term companion, also committed suicide with him.
Despite repeated assassination attempts, Hitler survived till he took is own life. Eva Braun, his wife for 40 minutes and long-term companion, also committed suicide with him.
  • Queen Victoria got so mad about crazy men trying to kill her that she had the law changed so that people deemed to be insane could be convicted of crimes.
  • The 1944 assassination plot to kill Hitler, led by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, was the subject of a 2008 movie, Operation Valkyrie, starring Tom Cruise.
  • Yasser Arafat accused former Israeli general and prime minister, Ariel Sharon, of trying to kill him at least 13 times.
  • The CIA once hatched a plot to destroy Castro's beard, believing that it would make him less popular.
  • One attempt to assassinate French leader, Charles De Gaulle, was memorialized with a 1973 film, The Day of the Jackal.

If you’re a world leader, then chances are that there are some people out there who don’t like you. In fact, there might be some people out there who hate you so much, they want to kill you. For as long as there have been leaders in human history, there have been attempts to assassinate them. Indeed, some leaders have been the target of multiple assassination attempts. Here are some famous world leaders that were almost assassinated:

6. Queen Victoria

Photograph of Queen Victoria, 1882. Image credit: Alexander Bassano/Public domain

Queen Victoria ruled the United Kingdom from 1837 to 1901. She survived numerous assassination attempts. In fact, in 1842, she escaped three attempts on her life. On one occasion the same person tried to kill her twice. First, he tried to shoot her as she was coming home from church. He escaped, and the next day, tried to shoot her again, but was stopped and detained by police. Queen Victoria survived yet another attempt five weeks later. Additional attempts on her life were made during the course of her reign, but none were successful, and she ended her days as Britain’s longest reigning monarch.

5. Adolf Hitler

Although there were several attempts to assassinate him, Hitler eventually died by committing suicide. Image credit: A headline in the U.S. Army newspaper Stars and Stripes announcing Hitler's death/Bundesarchiv, Bild/Public domain

Hitler was almost assassinated six times. One attempt was made in 1921, twelve years before he became the Chancellor of Germany, at a time when he was still relatively unknown. He escaped that attempt unscathed. More attempts were made when he was chancellor, in 1938, 1939, 1943, and 1944, but he escaped all of them unharmed. The most famous of the assassination attempts against the Fuhrer was arguably the one planned in 1944, when a few Nazi officers, led by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, organized a plot to kill Hitler with a bomb, then have the German Army Reserves take over the government so that they could negotiate peace with the Allied powers. The bomb was successfully detonated, but Hitler escaped with non-life threatening injuries, and news of his survival caused the planned revolt to fail. The conspirators were eventually rounded up and executed.

4. Josip Broz Tito

Marshal Tito, the President of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia, who came to India on December 16, 1954. Image credit: Photo Division, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India/Public domain

Tito ruled what was Yugoslavia between 1945 and 1980. Unlike the other leaders of Eastern Europe, he refused to allow his country to become a Soviet satellite state, opting to chart his own, independent course for his communist regime. This defiance infuriated Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who made several attempts to kill the Yugoslav leader. Eventually, in 1948, Tito sent a letter to him, saying, “Stop sending people to kill me. We’ve already captured five of them, one of them with a bomb and another with a rifle. (…) If you don’t stop sending killers, I’ll send one to Moscow, and I won’t have to send a second.” 

3. Yasser Arafat

Yasser Arafat. Image credit: Government Press Office (Israel)/Wikimedia.org

To some, he was a terrorist. To others, a freedom fighter. But for better or for worse, Yasser Arafat was the face of the Palestinian struggle for decades. He was the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the umbrella group representing various Palestinian factions. Israel is thought to have tried to assassinate him on several occassions. Jordan is also thought to have attempted to kill the Palestinian leader during the 1970 Black September crisis. Arafat may have ultimately been assassinated when he died in 2004, as some believe he was killed by radiation poisoning, pointing to Israel as the culprit. There is, however, no broad consensus on how Arafat’s life ended.

2. Charles De Gaulle

Charles De Gaulle. Image credit: The National Archives UK

De Gaulle first rose to fame as the leader of the French government in exile during World War II, when he refused to acquiesce in France’s surrender to Nazi Germany. After the war, he became France’s president on two occasions. While he was still a military general, De Gaulle survived his first assassination attempt when a petty officer tried to shoot him. Luckily for De Gaulle, another soldier disarmed the would-be assassin before he could fire his gun. During his tenure as French president, two major attempts were made to assassinate him, both of which occurred while he was traveling in his car. In the first case, assassins tried to kill him with explosives as he drove by. In the second attempt, snipers hiding in other cars fired on his car. Neither attempt was successful. In all, there are 31 recorded assassination attempts on De Gaulle, who was ultimately felled by old age.  

1. Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro. Image credit: Public domain

According to Cuban officials, Fidel Castro survived more than 600 attempts to assassinate him. Castro came to power in the Caribbean nation in 1959, following a successful revolt against a dictatorship supported by the U.S. He then turned Cuba towards communism and remained the country’s effective ruler until 2006, when he ceded power to his brother. From the day he rose to power, Castro was a nut that the U.S. couldn’t crack. He survived all attempts at killing him, which ranged from trying to poison him to attempting to blow him up with explosives. The U.S. even tried to arrange his killing by soliciting the help of a woman, Marita Lorenz, with whom Castro had an affair. But Castro survived. In fact, he was so confident of his invincibility that after finding out Lorenz was being used to deliver poison to kill him, he handed her a pistol and dared her to shoot him. Instead, she fell into his arms.


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