Leon Klinghoffer

Leon Klinghoffer

New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Death 8 Oct 1985 (aged 69)
At Sea
Burial Kenilworth, Union County, New Jersey, USA
Memorial ID 8692 · View Source
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Murder Victim. Confined to a wheelchair, he was shot by Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) terrorists and his body thrown off the Italian cruise ship, Achille Lauro. The hijacking was masterminded by Mohammed Abul Abbas, who had planned to have the four men perform a suicide attack, seizing Israelis as hostages for exchange of Palestinians in Israeli prisons when the ship docked in Ashdod, Israel. Leon was an appliance manufacturer, born in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and spent much of his growing up years learning about life on the streets. He became a manufacturer of appliances, and invented the rotobroiler, a metal oven that consisted of a rotisserie and a heating element to cook the meat. It was an instant success, and provided Leon with a steady career and income. When Leon was disabled from a succession of strokes, he retired and was confined to a wheelchair for mobility. After his retirement, his wife, Marilyn, became the support for the family, working in the human resource department of Gralla Publications near Times Square in Manhattan, a company that produced magazines such as "Kitchen Business," "Furniture Merchant" and other specialty magazines. In 1985, Leon and Marilyn decided to celebrate their 36th wedding anniversary by taking a cruise aboard the Achille Lauro, an Italian cruise ship scheduled to a round trip tour of the eastern Mediterranean Sea, with stops in Egypt, Israel and Capri. Boarding in Genoa, Italy, the ship stopped at Alexandria, Egypt on October 7, 1985, where some 660 passengers left the ship for a shopping trip in nearby Cairo and with plans to reboard the ship at its next stop at Port Said, Egypt. After half of the passengers left at Alexandria, the ship departed port with 11 American tourists and 8 British tourists still among the passengers for its next stop at Port Said. On the afternoon of October 8, 1985, four Palestinian terrorists seized control of the ship, and ordered the American and British tourists together, to be held as hostages for their demands of the release of 50 Palestinian guerillas held by Israel. Leon was immediately separated from his wife because he was Jewish, and taken on deck, while the rest of the passengers were herded into the ship's dining room. When his wife asked where he was, she was told he was taken to the infirmary. Instead, he was taken up on deck and shot twice, once in the back and once in the head. The ship's barber and a waiter were ordered to throw his body and wheelchair into the sea. When the ship was refused access to Syria, the ship returned to Port Said, Egypt, where the 4 hijackers were granted safe passage to Tunisia in exchange for the safe release of the crew and hostages. While flying to Tunisia, American fighter aircraft intercepted the Egyptian Air plane and forced it to an American base in Italy. Abbas was taken prisoner along with the four hijackers, but was turned over to Italian officials at their insistence. Abbas was then released to Yugoslavia for his "safety," and the four hijackers were sent to Italian prisons where they later escaped. Leon Klinghoffer's body washed ashore in Syria, and was found on October 15 and returned to the United States. An autopsy showed that Leon had died by drowning, and not by the bullets that had been fired into him. Four months after his death, Marilyn Klinghoffer died of colon cancer. They were survived by their two daughters, Ilsa and Lisa. The two daughters later sued the PLO (Klinghoffer vs. PLO, 1990 and 1991) for their role in the hijacking and murder of their father, and the suit was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount of money. Abbas, the mastermind of the plot, was captured by American forces at his home in Baghdad, Iraq, on April 14, 2003, where he had been living under the protection of Saddam Hussein for the past 17 years. Abbas died of a heart attack on March 9, 2004, while in American custody, awaiting trial for his role in the murder.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 3 Mar 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 8692
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Leon Klinghoffer (24 Sep 1916–8 Oct 1985), Find A Grave Memorial no. 8692, citing Beth-David Cemetery, Kenilworth, Union County, New Jersey, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .