20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts

Steve - April 8, 2019

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran (c. 1979). Wikimedia Commons.

5. A figure of significant opposition, the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, faced multiple attempts on his life before ultimately fleeing the country in 1979 into permanent exile

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, also known as Mohammad Reza Shah, reigned as the last Shah of Iran from 1941 until his deposition during the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Succeeding his father after the Anglo-Soviet invasion compelled the former’s abdication, Mohammad Reza sought to rapidly modernize his nation into a global power, instituting an array of political, economic, and social reforms that lost him the support of the religious clergy and traditionalists. A figure of controversy from his earliest days as Shah, Mohammad Reza was the target of at least two assassination attempts during his reign.

On February 4, 1949, the Shah suffered his first assassination effort, attacked whilst attending an annual ceremony to commemorate the founding of Tehran University in 1851. Believed to have been a member of the Tudeh Party – the Iranian communist organization that was subsequently banned after the 1953 coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh – Fakhr-Arai opened fire upon the monarch. Discharging five rounds from a range of three meters, only one hit the Shah, grazing his cheek, whilst Fakhr-Arai was shot dead by security officers. Recent years have questioned his communist affiliations, instead placing blame on the religious organization Fada’iyan-e Islam.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
“Portrait of Czar Alexander II”; author unknown (c. 1878-1881). Wikimedia Commons.

4. Although eventually succumbing to assassination in 1881, Alexander II of Russia survived several prior attempts made against his life during his twenty-year long reign

Alexander II (b. 1818) reigned as Emperor of Russia, King of Poland, and Grand Duke of Finland from 1855 until his death at the hands of an assassin in 1881. Responsible for the emancipation of the serfs in 1861, garnering him the title “Alexander the Liberator”, the Russian monarch was the subject of sustained attempts upon his life. Starting with an attempt on April 4, 1866, an event which triggered a noticeable hardening of the Russian leader’s political positions, Alexander, along with his two sons and Napoleon III, were also attacked the following year at the World’s Fair. Spared by the misfiring of Polish immigrant Antoni Berezowski’s modified double-barrelled pistol, the bullet instead struck an accompanying horse.

Almost killed again on the morning of April 20, 1879, Alexander Soloviev, a thirty-three-year-old revolutionary, opened fire upon the Emperor as he walked across the Square of the Guards Staff in St. Petersburg. Firing five shots and giving chase, the Russian monarch fled his assailant, dodging the oncoming bullets. In December of the same year, the revolutionary organization “People’s Will” bombed the railway to Moscow, narrowly missing Alexander’s train. People’s Will was also responsible for the bombing of the dining room of the Winter Palace on February 5, 1880, killing eleven and wounding thirty, but missing the Emperor who was delayed attending the meal.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
Theodore Roosevelt in 1904. Wikimedia Commons.

3. Theodore Roosevelt, the youngest person to ever serve as President of the United States, was shot in the chest before a campaign rally but proceeded to give his hour-and-a-half long speech with the bullet lodged in his torso anyway

Theodore Roosevelt Jr. (b. 1858) served as the 33rd Governor of New York, the 25th Vice President of the United States, and the 26th President of the United States. Succeeding to the Oval Office following the assassination of President William McKinley just six months into his second term in March 1901, Roosevelt was, and remains, the youngest person to become President of the United States, doing so at the age of just forty-two. Despite winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for his efforts in brokering a conclusion in the Russo-Japanese War, Roosevelt, like his predecessor, was the victim of an assassination attempt.


On October 14, 1912, whilst campaigning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as the presidential candidate for the Progressive Party, Roosevelt was shot by John Flammang Schrank. Slowed by a steel eyeglass case and a fifty-page copy of his speech, the bullet lodged in Roosevelt’s chest. Delivering his speech as planned, the former President spoke for the next ninety minutes before calmly accepting medical attention. Schrank, certified insane and institutionalized until his death in 1943, claimed during his trial that William McKinley had visited him in a dream and begged him to avenge his own assassination by murdering Roosevelt.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964. Wikimedia Commons.

2. Martin Luther King Jr., eventually the victim of an assassin, was almost killed in 1958 when he was stabbed in the chest whilst signing books in Harlem

Martin Luther King Jr. (b. 1929) was an American minister who became the de facto leader of the civil rights movement until his assassination in 1968. Advancing the non-violent tactics of civil disobedience inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and is most remembered today for his legendary speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial entitled: “I Have a Dream”. Provoking a sustained backlash from white Americans in favor of racial segregation, King and his followers were subjected to intense violence and repeated attempts on their lives throughout the civil rights movement.

Facing assassination for the first time on September 20, 1958, whilst signing copies of his book Stride Toward Freedom in a department store in Harlem, New York City, King was attacked by Izola Curry. Believing that King was conspiring against her with communists, the mentally ill Curry stabbed King in the chest with a letter opener. Hospitalized for several weeks, King recovered after emergency surgery and reflected upon the experience in later works. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, by James Earl Ray, a white supremacist opposed to the racial equality preached and advocated for by King.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
Portrait of Adolf Hitler; author unknown (c. 1938). Wikimedia Commons.

1. The subject of dozens of assassination plots, German dictator Adolf Hitler survived them all before eventually killing himself at the end of the Second World War

Adolf Hitler (b. 1889) was the leader of the German Nazi Party, Chancellor of Germany, and subsequently Führer of Germany from 1934 until his death in 1945. Initiating a one-party dictatorship in 1933, Hitler presided over a policy of extreme nationalism, aggressive expansionism, and racial purity, contributing to the outbreak of World War II and the mass murder of civilians during the Holocaust. Due to the radical nature of his politics, Hitler was the subject of countless assassination plots, with current estimates placing the confirmed number at forty-two, with many more believed to remain undocumented.

Surviving them all, the earliest known attempt was made in 1932, with Hitler and several close members of staff falling dangerously ill after consuming meals at the Kaiserhof Hotel believed to have been laced with poison. The most famous and closest to success, the July 20 Plot came within centimeters of assassinating the Führer, along with the preponderance of the German High Command, during a meeting at the Wolf’s Lair. Spared by a table-leg which muted the blast from a bomb planted by Claus von Stauffenberg, Hitler survived with only minor injuries, whilst three officers died and more than twenty suffered serious wounds.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

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“Killing Hitler: The Plots, The Assassins, And The Dictator Who Cheated Death”, Roger Moorhouse, Bantam Books (2006)