Nazis Planned to Kill Winston Churchill With an Exploding Chocolate Bar

Nazis Planned to Kill Winston Churchill With an Exploding Chocolate Bar


We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

While Nazi Germany rained conventional bombs upon Great Britain in World War II, Adolf Hitler’s forces were also busy at work devising fiendishly clever booby traps to strike the enemy on its own soil. As the war progressed, British intelligence agency MI5 learned of a secret Nazi sabotage campaign to hide explosives in everyday items such as cans of plums, canisters of motor oil, shaving brushes and lumps of coal. The spy agency even discovered Nazi plans to develop bangers and mash that delivered a true bang.

And in the spring of 1943, MI5 operative Victor Rothschild learned of an even more ingenious bomb being conjured up by the Nazis: an exploding chocolate bar.

READ MORE: Why the Candy Bar Market Exploded After WWI

The killer candy was cloaked in a black foil wrapper with gold lettering bearing the brand name “Peter’s Chocolate.” Underneath the real chocolate exterior was steel and canvas, and when a piece of chocolate at the end of the bar was broken off and the canvas pulled, it activated a bomb that would explode after a seven-second delay. MI5 believed Nazi secret agents were plotting to smuggle the explosive chocolate into the War Cabinet and into the hands of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who was known to have a sweet tooth.

Rothschild, a trained biologist and a member of a prominent banking family, had been recruited to lead MI5’s three-person explosives and counter-sabotage unit. However, he was not an artist and needed sketches of the Nazi devices that could be used by intelligence officers to defuse the bombs. Luckily, Donald Fish, one of Rothschild’s two colleagues, knew just the right person for the job—his son.

READ MORE: How Hershey's Chocolate Helped Power Allied Troops During WWII

Artist Made Detailed Sketches of Booby-Trap Bombs

Laurence Fish, a young self-taught artist, was employed by MI5 to produce detailed, free-hand drawings of the menagerie of booby trap bombs. When Rothschild learned of the stealth candy bomb, he again turned to Fish. “I wonder if you could do a drawing for me of an explosive slab of chocolate,” Rothschild wrote to Fish on May 4, 1943, from a secret bunker deep under the streets of London. The MI5 counter-sabotage agent included a rough sketch of the bomb, which he wanted Fish to improve upon. “Would it be possible for you to do a drawing of this, one possibly with the paper half taken off revealing one end and another with the piece broken off showing the canvas?”

The letter, stamped “secret,” had been found by Fish’s widow Jean Bray as she combed through her husband’s possessions following his 2009 death at the age of 89. The artist’s original drawing, though, had been missing for decades and presumed lost along with dozens of others. The BBC reports, however, that a sheaf of more than two dozen of Fish’s drawings were rediscovered in 2015 by Rothschild’s family as they cleaned out a chest of drawers in the family house in Suffolk, England, a quarter-century after the intelligence officer’s death.

READ MORE: The Wartime Origins of M&M’s

“I didn’t know that the drawings existed,” said Fish’s widow, according to an article in the Gloucestershire Echo. “He always kept the letters, but nobody knew what had happened to the drawings. We presumed that they had been destroyed or lost.”

Some of the explosive devices depicted in Fish’s newly rediscovered drawings appear to have been ripped from the pages of one of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. There are bombs concealed inside matchboxes, pocket watches and even thermos flasks. One sketch shows the Nazis had developed plans for a simple culinary timing mechanism in which dried peas in a test tube would expand as they absorbed water, forcing a floating cork to rise until two brass screws touched to complete a circuit.

Made in an era before computer-aided design, the finely drawn sketches were not only utilitarian in assisting MI5 personnel to locate and defuse booby-trap devices, but artistic as well. Rothschild even mounted some of the drawings on the walls of his study. “Nowadays people would say these drawings are nothing and you could do it with a computer in seconds,” Bray said. “But there was no machinery or anything like that at the time. They were all hand drawn.”

WATCH: The new season of The Food That Built America premieres Sunday, February 14 at 9/8c. Can’t wait for the premiere? Catch a sneak preview episode on Tuesday, February 9 at 10/9c. Watch a preview below:


Nazis Planned to Assassinate Winston Churchill with Exploding Chocolate

He was Britain's most famous Prime Minister, renowned for his love of history, cigars, and fine brandy, but it was Sir Winston Churchill's sweet tooth that lay at the center of a dastardly Nazi plan.

Secret wartime documents recently unveiled reveal a plan hatched by Nazi agents in 1943 to assassinate Churchill with exploding chocolate bars. The scheme involved German bomb makers coating explosives in a layer of rich dark chocolate then wrapping them in expensive-looking black and gold paper. Adolf Hitler then planned to use secret agents working in Britain to smuggle the lethal chocolate along with other luxury items to a dining room used by Churchill and his war cabinet, the Daily Mail reported.

The chocolate bars, branded as "Peters Chocolate" were apparently packed with enough explosives to kill anyone within several meters.

But Hitler's explosive plan was ultimately a dud, foiled by British spies who discovered the plot and notified Lord Victor Rothschild, one of MI5's most senior intelligence chiefs. Rothschild then asked artist Laurence Fish to draw poster-sized images of the chocolate to warn the public to be on the lookout for the bars.

"I wonder if you could do a drawing for me of an explosive slab of chocolate," the letter, written from a secret London bunker and addressed to Fish read. "We have received information that the enemy are using pound slabs of chocolate which are made of steel with a very thin covering of real chocolate."

He continued, "Inside there is high explosive and some form of delay mechanism…When the piece of chocolate is pulled sharply, the canvas is also pulled and this initiates the mechanism."

The letter was discovered by Fish's wife, journalist Jean Bray as she went through his possessions after he died at age 89 in 2009.

Hitler himself was nearly killed by an exploding briefcase on July 20, 1944 as part of a plot by the German resistance to assassinate the dictator dubbed "Operation Valkyrie"


Nazis Planned to Kill Churchill With Exploding Chocolate Bars

The Nazis planned to kill Winston Churchill during World War II with exploding chocolate, it has been discovered.

In an extravagant plot, similar to inventive plans used today by Islamic extremist terrorists, the Adolf Hitler commissioned his bomb makers to create an explosive device covered in a thin layer of chocolate. The exploding chocolate bar was then to be wrapped in expensive black and gold covering to disguise the bomb as Peters Chocolate brand of premium chocolates, according to a Telegraph report.

The explosives were planned to be powerful enough to kill anyone within a few meters of the chocolate bar.

The inventive device would be triggered by a piece of the chocolate bar being broken off, which would start a timer to set off the device seven seconds later.

According to the devilish Nazi plan, secret agents would infiltrate Britain and somehow manage to plant the chocolate bars in Britain's War Cabinet dining room, along with a host of other luxury items so as to blend in. During the war in Britain there was a strictly imposed rationing of luxury items such as chocolate. So their presence in the War Cabinet would likely have quickly attracted those working there.

However, according to The Daily Mail the plot was foiled by British spies, who found out about the exploding chocolate devices. The British spies contacted Lord Victor Rothschild, one of MI5′s most senior intelligence chiefs, who commissioned an artist, Laurence Fish, to create a poster warning of the device to warn the British public.

Fish died just three years ago aged 89, but the letter from Lord Rothschild telling Fish about the plot has since been unveiled.

In the letter Lord Rothschild writes:

I wonder if you could do a drawing for me of an explosive slab of chocolate.

We have received information that the enemy are using pound slabs of chocolate which are made of steel with a very thin covering of real chocolate.

Inside there is high explosive and some form of delay mechanism… When you break off a piece of chocolate at one end in the normal way, instead of it falling away, a piece of canvas is revealed stuck into the middle of the piece which has been broken off and a ticking into the middle of the remainder of the slab.

When the piece of chocolate is pulled sharply, the canvas is also pulled and this initiates the mechanism.

I enclose a very poor sketch done by somebody who has seen one of these.

It is wrapped in the usual sort of black paper with gold lettering, the variety being PETERS.

Would it be possible for you to do a drawing of this, one possibly with the paper half taken off revealing one end and another with the piece broken off showing the canvas.

The text should indicate that this piece together with the attached canvas is pulled out sharply and that after a delay of seven seconds the bomb goes off."


Ridiculous History: The Curious Nazi Plot to Kill Churchill — By Chocolate

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was one of Europe's first leaders to vocally oppose Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. Churchill's radio broadcasts bolstered the faith of a frightened people, and Hitler desperately wanted him dead. But how would the Nazis reach such a preciously protected human resource? The big idea was sweet subterfuge.

In 2012, letters stamped "secret" revealed a curious project commissioned by Lord Victor Rothschild, an M15 senior intelligence chief. Rothschild wrote to illustrator Laurence Fish to request diagrams of exploding chocolate bars and other cleverly disguised explosive devices. A letter dated May 4, 1943, described a possible Nazi plot to kill Churchill by smuggling a sinister, sweet treat into the War Cabinet's dining room. The treat in question was a chocolate bar finely wrapped in black and gold paper and labeled "Peters Chocolate." The good wouldn't have aroused suspicion because it was actually chocolate.

According to a British spy who saw the chocolate bar explosive and drew the first rendering of the device, it was a steel plate covered by a thin layer of dark chocolate. When the chocolate bar was broken at its lines of demarcation, only then would the canvas strap connected to the explosive inside be revealed. The device was rigged to explode after a seven-second delay following the snap its effects would be felt within several feet (or meters) of the explosion.

In Rothschild's instructions to Fish, he asked the illustrator to include notations on the chocolate bar diagram about the seven-second delay. He also included the spy's original rendering, convinced that Fish would improve upon it. Rothschild intended for Fish's collected illustrations to be distributed in an effort to promote knowledge of how to defuse explosives. In total, Fish made 25 drawings.

The BBC cites historian Nigel West, who asserts that Rothschild probably paid out of pocket for the diagrams. This isn't surprising given Rothschild's wealth and largesse toward the empire after all, this is the man who offered up one of his mansions as MI5 offices in Paris. When the illustrations were complete, Rothschild was pleased enough with the results to have one framed for his home library and to put the remaining prints safely in storage.

When the aforementioned correspondence was discovered back in 2012, historians wondered: Where are the illustrations? In early September 2015, members of the Rothschild family were sorting through documents when they discovered them. Historical importance aside, experts considered them remarkable for pre-digital graphics.

The chocolate bar illustration proved particularly compelling. And it wasn't entirely beyond the realm of possibility that it could work. After all, as Vice reports on the issue, people have to eat! The act of breaking a chocolate bar to detonate an explosive device requires minimal effort from the consumer, yet it yields a devastating impact. Since the device was designed to look like a normal chocolate bar, it therefore would have possessed the properties of chocolate.

It's significant that the Germans used dark chocolate for the explosive. Dark chocolate was better suited for the task than milk chocolate — and that has everything to do with how it's tempered.

To temper chocolate means to melt it, then stir it vigorously as it cools. Pastry chef David Lebovitz explains that tempering is essential to ensure the formation of beta crystals in the chemical composition of the chocolate. Beta crystals alter the structure of chocolate to prevent it from forming streaky white marks or blotches on the surface.

These crystals also ensure that chocolate won't melt when you hold it (the human hand is a lot warmer than a candy bar wrapper) and that when it's reshaped — say, when a chocolatier presses it into a heart-shaped mold — it will slip out easily from its container and retain that shape. What's more, tempering creates what Lebovitz describes as a "glossy, shiny appearance and a crisp, clean snap when you break it."

A chocolatier will only temper chocolate that's being served as candy or pastry décor there's no need to exert the effort for chocolate that's being used as an ingredient and folded into recipes. Once chocolate is tempered, the chocolatier can add any number of ingredients to it: nuts, fruit and even dairy products to convert it from dark to milk chocolate. The more cocoa in the finished product, the sharper and cleaner the snap. If the chocolate gives softly when it's broken, it's milk chocolate. If it resists the motion and makes that audible snap, it's dark chocolate.

This takes us back to the Nazis' chocolate plot. Not only would the dark chocolate have been glossier and more luxurious-looking, the sharp snap likely would have been more conducive to triggering the device beneath it.

Luckily for Churchill, that theory wasn't tested. Ultimately, the chocolate's lasting legacy was a curious illustration devoted to detonation education.

Do you love history as much as we do? Then be sure to check back in to HowStuffWorks Now every week. We'll be publishing a new (old) ridiculous history article every Monday.


The Nazis Wanted to Beat the British With Exploding Chocolate Bars

During World War II, the United Kingdom had to cope with widespread food shortages and rationing that left sugar in short supply and chocolate almost unheard of. Which made Nazi boobytrap chocholate bombs all the more insulting, as Nick Higham reports for BBC News.

Drawings of exploding candy bars, bombs disguised as cans of motor oil and other “unpleasant weapons” were recently rediscovered after 70 years, writes Higham. Intended to be used as a warning to British forces looking to take the bite out of booby traps, the drawings give an intriguing glimpse into the world of WWII espionage.

The drawings of these odd German weapons were made by a man named Laurence Fish who worked for MI5's counter-sabotage unit. They were meant as a field guide to German booby traps, to teach agents how to diffuse these strange bombs if they encountereted them. 

Fish’s widow discovered 25 of the drawings after her husband’s death, but they were put in storage until they were recently discovered by the daughter of Victor Rothschild, who commissioned the drawings. (Gloustershire Echo has more information about their recovery.) Though a plot to kill Winston Churchill using the cruel candy has been known since a secret letter was uncovered in 2009, the drawings have not been made public until now.

Not to be outdone by a few bombs, the British engaged in several ingenious acts of espionage and deception during the war. But it wasn’t all cool booby traps and clever ruses. The Brits’ ultimate act of trickery was one that occurred in plain sight — Operation Fortitude, a huge fake army made of inflatables and wood that diverted Axis attention from key landing sites that would enable the Allies to land at Normandy and take back Europe.


Commonplace Fun Facts

Given Winston Churchill’s well-known fondness for food, it stands to reason that doctors warned him about the health risks of eating too many sweets. Little did they know just how dangerous certain chocolate might prove to be for the prime minister.

Documents discovered in 2009 revealed that Adolf Hitler planned to kill Churchill with explosive chocolate. German bombmakers concocted thin explosive devices coated with chocolate. The lethal confectionary counterfeits were powerful enough to kill anyone within several meters of the blast. The explosive was designed to be triggered when the chocolate bar was broken, setting off a 7-second timer before detonation.

British intelligence officers discovered the plot in time to prevent it from being carried out. Senior government officials were so concerned about the possibility of the chocolate explosives being used as a terror device that they considered putting up large posters, warning the British to carefully examine all chocolate before putting any in their mouths.


Winston Churchill, Nazis, and the (almost) exploding chocolate bar

The year was 1943, and those crafty Nazis had come up with another plan to assassinate Winston Churchill. They decided to prey upon the Prime Minister’s fondness for expensive chocolate, and began work on a bomb hidden in a pound-slab bar of Peter’s Chocolate.

photo via wikimedia.org (cc)

How it was supposed to work:

The chocolate bar was made of steel, with a thin layer of real chocolate covering it. Inside was the explosive, with a 7-second delay mechanism. I’ll quote the rest of the description, as detailed by Lord Rothschild, head of counter-espionage at MI5:

When you break off a piece of chocolate at one end in the normal way, a piece of canvas is revealed stuck in the middle of the piece which has been broken off and sticking in the remainder of the slab. When the piece of chocolate is pulled sharply, the canvas is also pulled and this initiates the mechanism.

The bar was wrapped in shiny, expensive foil, and labeled “Peter’s Chocolate.” The plan was to take the chocolate into the war cabinet dining room, and so take out as many cabinet members as possible, along with Churchill.

As you may have guessed, the plot was unsuccessful. British agents, working undercover in Germany, alerted MI5 about the plot, and included a rough sketch of the bars they had seen.

Since there was concern that the chocolate bars may actually reach the British public, Lord Rothschild wrote a secret letter to artist Laurence Fish, asking him to draw a better picture of what such a bar might look like. (Fish’s widow just recently discovered this letter, part of which is quoted above, and donated it to the country’s collection of other war-time documents). Check out The Huffington Post’s article, which includes a photo of Rothschild’s letter.

Below (via Photobucket) is a sketch, but I haven’t been able to establish if this is Fish’s drawing, or someone else’s: Mystery Fanfare: Death by Chocolate: Winston Churchill.

Sometimes real life is crazier than fiction, right? What do you think of the plot – did they really have a chance to pull it off? I’d love to hear from you!


Nazis Planned to Assassinate Winston Churchill with Exploding Chocolate

He was Britain's most famous Prime Minister, renowned for his love of history, cigars, and fine brandy, but it was Sir Winston Churchill's sweet tooth that lay at the center of a dastardly Nazi plan.

Secret wartime documents recently unveiled reveal a plan hatched by Nazi agents in 1943 to assassinate Churchill with exploding chocolate bars. The scheme involved German bomb makers coating explosives in a layer of rich dark chocolate then wrapping them in expensive-looking black and gold paper. Adolf Hitler then planned to use secret agents working in Britain to smuggle the lethal chocolate along with other luxury items to a dining room used by Churchill and his war cabinet, the Daily Mail reported.

The chocolate bars, branded as "Peters Chocolate" were apparently packed with enough explosives to kill anyone within several meters.

But Hitler's explosive plan was ultimately a dud, foiled by British spies who discovered the plot and notified Lord Victor Rothschild, one of MI5's most senior intelligence chiefs. Rothschild then asked artist Laurence Fish to draw poster-sized images of the chocolate to warn the public to be on the lookout for the bars.

"I wonder if you could do a drawing for me of an explosive slab of chocolate," the letter, written from a secret London bunker and addressed to Fish read. "We have received information that the enemy are using pound slabs of chocolate which are made of steel with a very thin covering of real chocolate."

He continued, "Inside there is high explosive and some form of delay mechanism…When the piece of chocolate is pulled sharply, the canvas is also pulled and this initiates the mechanism."

The letter was discovered by Fish's wife, journalist Jean Bray as she went through his possessions after he died at age 89 in 2009.

Hitler himself was nearly killed by an exploding briefcase on July 20, 1944 as part of a plot by the German resistance to assassinate the dictator dubbed "Operation Valkyrie"


TIL that the Nazis attempted to assassinate Winston Churchill with an exploding chocolate bar.

An exploding liter of 20 year old Scotch Whisky would have worked a lot better.

"If you were my wife, Iɽ drink it."

I'm pretty sure that I remember that the Allies originally planned on assassinating Hitler, but he was such a shitty strategist that he would've been replaced by somebody better than him.

There is some legitimacy to this:

The plan was submitted in November 1944, but was never carried out because controversy remained over whether it was actually a good idea to kill Hitler: he was by then considered to be such a poor strategist that it was believed whoever replaced him would probably do a better job of fighting the Allies. Thornley also argued that Germany was almost defeated and, if Hitler were assassinated, he would become a martyr to some Germans, and possibly give rise to a myth that Germany might have won if Hitler had survived. Since the idea was not only to defeat Germany but to destroy Nazism in general, that would have been a highly undesirable development. However, there were strong advocates on both sides, and the plan never became operational simply because no actual decision was reached. In any case, Hitler left the Berghof for the last time on 14 July 1944, never to return, and committed suicide in Berlin on 30 April 1945, a few days before the war in Europe ended.

The plot of The Dirty Dozen: Next Mission was based somewhat on this.


Most Read

Though British spies discovered and dashed the secret plan, the national intelligence service sought at the time to warn the public to watch out for the candy, which packed enough power to slay anyone within several yards.

"I wonder if you could do a drawing for me of an explosive slab of chocolate," Lord Victor Rothschild, a senior British intelligence officer, wrote to artist Laurence Fish on May 4, 1943. "We have received information that the enemy are using pound slabs of chocolate which are made of steel with a very thin covering of real chocolate."

"Inside there is high explosive and some form of delay mechanism," Rothschild added. "The text should indicate that this piece together with the attached canvas is pulled out sharply and that after a delay of seven seconds the bomb goes off."


Exploding Chocolate, Poisoned Scuba Suits, and the Bulgarian Umbrella: A Survey of Strange Assassination Tech

"Dear Fish, I wonder if you could do a drawing for me of an explosive slab of chocolate," begins a letter from Lord Victor Rothschild, a British intelligence officer in World War II. "We have received information that the enemy are using pound slabs of chocolate which are made of steel with a very thin covering of real chocolate. Inside there is high explosive and some form of delay mechanism."

The letter, which was sent on May 4, 1943 to Laurence Fish, an illustrator, referenced a very real assassination plot by the Nazis. Their target: no less than the round mound of resolve, Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The chocolates were to be placed "amongst other luxury items in the War Cabinet's dining room where Winston Churchill often hung out." But the plan was discovered by British spies and (ahem) foiled.

This exploding-chocolate story has just come to light this week in the British papers, and it got me thinking. Could this be the most bizarre assassination technology? Surely not. So I went looking for some more.

Hitler himself was almost done in by an exploding briefcase planted not by a spy, but by a member of his military during a coup attempt. His press secretary said of the attack, "The German people must consider the failure of the attempt on Hitler's life as a sign that Hitler will complete his tasks under the protection of a divine power."

But perhaps the best place to look was the annals of the Central Intelligence Agency. As detailed in the Church Committee report of the 1970s, the agency was constantly plotting to kill the leaders of countries that it perceived too anti-American or pro-communist. In grinding detail, the reports reconstruct the various CIA efforts, none of which appear to have succeeded.

On the very plausible sounding end of the spectrum, there was the plot to kill the first Congolese Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba. A CIA agent simply picked a biological agent from a list of substances available the Army Chemical Corps at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and stuck it in a bottle along with gloves and a syringe. The idea was to get the substance onto some kind of food or perhaps into his toothpaste, which Lumumba would have eaten, and thereby contracting the illness. Among the candidate diseases were: tularemia ("rabbit fever"), brucellosis (undulant fever), tuberculosis, anthrax, smallpox, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis ("sleeping sickness").

And then there are the attempts to kill Fidel Castro, which were detailed in a book, The Fish Is Red, as well as a British documentary called, " 638 Ways to Kill Fidel Castro." Still, I prefer the Church Report's droll retellings of the plots.

First, there were the poison cigars:

A notation in the records of the Operations Division, CIA's Office of Medical Services, indicates that on August 16, 1960, an official was given a box of Castro's favorite cigars with instructions to treat them with lethal poison. The cigars were contaminated with a botulinum toxin so potent t,hat a person would die after putting one in his mouth. The official reported that the cigars were ready on October 7, 1960 TSD notes indicate that they were delivered to an unidentified person on February 13,196l. The record does not disclose whether an attempt was made to pass the cigars to Castro.

Then, we read about the poison pills, an alternative to a "gangland-style killing," in that the method was "nice and clean, without getting into any kind of out and out ambushing." The pills contained botulinum toxin and were manufactured to dissolve in water, so they could be dropped into Castro's drink. They were given to a shady underworld figure with Las Vegas contacts, who apparently somehow got them to someone in the Castro government, but nothing came of the plot.

The CIA seemed to perceive that Castro was vulnerable near or in the ocean. In 1963, they seriously examined "whether an exotic seashell, rigged to explode, could be deposited in an area where Castro commonly went skin diving." Basically, an EXPLODING CONCH SHELL.

And they explored giving him a diving suit that been "dusted . with a fungus that would produce a chronic skin disease (Madura foot), and contaminated the breathing apparatus with a tubercule bacillus." Apparently, the CIA's tech folks bought the suit and did the contamination, but it never left the lab.

And who could forget the poison pen, "a ball-point pen rigged with a hypodermic needle" filled with Blackleaf-40 poison? Apparently, it was kind of a kludgey assassination device, though. The CIA contact in Cuba who was given the pen, "did not 'think much of the device,' and complained that CIA could surely 'come up with something more sophisticated than that.'"

Of course, the Soviets had their share of assassination technologies, too. One is so famous it even has a name, "The Bulgarian Umbrella," and a Wikipedia page. Quoth the people's encylopedia:

The Bulgarian umbrella is the name of an umbrella with a hidden pneumatic mechanism which shot out a small poisonous pellet containing ricin. The Bulgarian Umbrella has a hollow stalk which the pellet neatly sits into.

Such an umbrella was allegedly used in the assassination of the Bulgarian dissident writer Georgi Markov on September 7, 1978 (the birthday of the Bulgarian State Council ChairmanTodor Zhivkov who had often been the target of Georgi Markov's criticism), on Waterloo Bridge in London (Markov died four days later), and also allegedly used in the failed assassination attempt against the Bulgarian dissident journalist Vladimir Kostov the same year in the Paris Métro. The poison used in both cases was ricin.

The Israeli intelligence services are suspected of killing Yehiya Ayyash with his own cellphone, which the group had rigged as a bomb. The History Channel dramatized how easy it is to turn a cellphone into a bomb. As one retired Shin Bet officer put it, "Half the battery can be dynamite." Yikes.

In recent years, the world witnessed the truly horrifying assassination of former KGB agent turned journalist, Alexander Litvinenko, in London. A rare radioactive isotope polonium-210 was placed in his tea during a lunch at a sushi restaurant. He fell ill and died a slow death from the radiation poisoning. Several Russian officers have been suspected of the killing.

Of course, most assassinations don't come through fanciful cloak-and-dagger activity. Without the complexities of the Cold War to deal with, drones do most of the covert killing. At least for the United States.

(Thanks to @gbrumfiel, @haleyhennes, @jodyavirgnan, and @monbud for their help with this story.)