While Muammar Gaddafi was known to be a supporter of Palestine and vehemently anti-Israel in addition to being the world’s strangest dresser, he had a pen pal relationship with a Jewish florist in Brooklyn.
Louis Schlamowitz, an 81 year old florist who is retired, released 20 years of correspondence between himself and the Libyan dictator, starting in 1969 and ending in 1988 in the wake of the Lockerbie bombing in Scotland. Those documents included several photographs and four letters.
According to Schlamowitz, the first letter was sent in 1969 right after Gaddafi took power and wished the dictator well as well as asked for a signed picture. A month later, he received a reply with an autographed photograph. From that point onward, the two carried on a correspondence that included Christmas greetings and views regarding Israel and the US that at one point became a heated debate. One notable letter from Gaddafi was a 1981 tirade against Israel and the US, accusing both countries of terrorism. Earlier this year when the Arab spring began, Schlamowitz sent Gaddafi a letter but it was returned unopened.
The Brooklyn man said his correspondence was cut in 1988 because Gaddafi “committed crimes against humanity and didn’t want to be mixed up with him and his organization”. In addition, Schlamowitz said that he was investigated by the CIA and FBI for his correspondence with the dictator, but discovered it was mostly photographs, completely harmless letters and left him alone.
Gaddafi isn’t the first famous person Schlamowtiz has contacted, although his pen pal relationship with Gaddafi was the longest. Other individuals included President Harry Truman, Hosni Mubarak, Yasser Arafat and even Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, as well as numerous Supreme Court justices, astronauts, and movie stars. At the last count, Schlamowitz had over 6,000 autographs of famous – and infamous – individuals.
Schlamowitz was somewhat sad over Gaddafi’s death, although he said he had warned the dictator in the past that he needed to stop oppressing his people. As to Gaddafi’s death, he said “They really gave him the one-two-three. But that’s politics”.