|Born||Alan Harrison Berg|
January 1, 1934
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||June 18, 1984 (aged 50)|
Denver, Colorado, U.S.
|Cause of death||Assassination|
|Resting place||Waldheim Jewish Cemetery|
Forest Park, Illinois
|Occupation||Lawyer, radio show host|
Alan Harrison Berg (January 1, 1934 – June 18, 1984) was a Jewish American attorney and talk radio show host in Denver, Colorado. Berg was known for his mostly liberal, outspoken viewpoints and confrontational interview style.
On the evening of June 18, 1984, Berg was fatally shot in the driveway of his Denver home by members of the white nationalist group The Order. His provocative talk show sought to flush out "the anti-Semitism latent in the area's conservative population". He succeeded in provoking members of The Order to engage him in conversations on this talk show and his "often-abrasive on-air persona" ignited the anger of The Order. Subsequently, members of The Order involved in the killing were identified as being part of a group planning to kill prominent Jews. Ultimately, two members of The Order, David Lane and Bruce Pierce, were convicted on charges of civil rights violations for their involvement in the case, although neither were ever charged or convicted of homicide. Lane and Pierce were sentenced to 190 years and 252 years in prison, respectively. Lane died in prison in 2007 and Pierce died in prison in 2010.
Alan Berg was a native of Chicago, Illinois. His family was Jewish. He attended the University of Colorado Denver before transferring to the University of Denver. At age 22, Berg was one of the youngest people to pass the Illinois state bar examination and he went into practice in Chicago. However, he began to experience neuromuscular seizures and he had become an alcoholic. His then-wife, Judith Lee Berg (née Halpern), convinced him to quit his practice to seek help. They moved to Denver, her hometown, and he entered rehabilitation voluntarily. Although he completed his treatment, he continued to be plagued by seizures. He was ultimately diagnosed with a brain tumor. After it was surgically removed, he made a full recovery. For the rest of his life, Alan Berg wore long bangs to hide the surgical scars.
Berg worked at a shoe store and later opened a clothing store in Denver where he met KGMC-AM talk show host Laurence Gross. Impressed with Berg, Gross made him a guest on several occasions. When Gross left KGMC to take a job in San Diego, California, he requested that Alan Berg be named his successor.
From KGMC, which changed its call sign to KWBZ, Berg moved to KHOW, also in Denver. After being fired from KHOW, Berg went back to KWBZ before it changed to an all-music format and he again lost his job. The unemployed Berg was courted by both KTOK in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Detroit, Michigan. He was lastly hired by KOA and debuted on February 23, 1981. He worked at KOA until his death.
His programs could be received in more than 30 states. Berg, who held liberal social and political views, became known for upsetting some callers to the point they began sputtering, whereupon he would berate them. Clarissa Pinkola Estés of the Moderate Voice website wrote in 2007: "He didn't pick on the poor, the frail, the undefended: He chose Roderick Elliot and Frank "Bud" Farell, who wrote The Death of the White Race and Open Letter to the Gentiles, and other people from the white supremacist groups… the groups who openly espoused hatred of blacks, Jews, leftists, homosexuals, Hispanics, other minorities and religious groups".
On March 5, 1982, Berg tried to interview Ellen Kaplan, a member of the LaRouche movement, about an incident that had happened on February 7, 1982, at the Newark International Airport. Kaplan had recognized Henry Kissinger, who was on his way to Boston to undergo a bypass operation, and shouted an abusive question at him, whereupon his wife Nancy attacked Kaplan. During his program, Berg called Kaplan on the phone. When she answered, he introduced her as “a vile human being” and praised Nancy Kissinger's attack on her. After Kaplan hung up, Berg continued to ridicule Kaplan and abuse her verbally for the remainder of the program. Afterwards, KOA received complaints by listeners and Kaplan's boyfriend, and on suggestion of the lawyers of the station owners General Electric, the station management suspended Berg from work for a few days. After returning to work, Berg toned down his methods somewhat.
At about 9:30 p.m. on June 18, 1984, Berg returned to his Adams Street townhouse after a dinner date with Judith, with whom he was attempting reconciliation. Berg stepped out of his black Volkswagen Beetle and gunfire erupted. He was struck 12 times. The murder weapon, a semi-automatic Ingram MAC-10, which had been illegally converted to an automatic weapon, was later traced to the home of one of The Order's members by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Hostage Rescue Team.
A former producer of Berg's believed that he was on a 'death list' because he was both Jewish, and he had challenged, on the air, the beliefs of members of the Christian Identity movement, who believed Jews were descended from Satan. At the trial for his murder, prosecutors contended that he was singled out for assassination because he was a Jew and because his personality incurred the anger of white supremacists. At the conspiracy trial of members of The Order, the white supremacist organization responsible for organizing the assassination, a founding member of the group, Denver Daw Parmenter, was asked why Berg was targeted. Parmenter responded that Berg "was mainly thought to be anti-white and he was Jewish". Berg's remains were buried at the Waldheim Jewish Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois.
Four members of The Order were ultimately indicted on federal charges: Jean Craig, David Lane, Bruce Pierce, and Richard Scutari. However, only Lane and Pierce were convicted, though neither of homicide (which is a state crime). Rather, they were convicted of racketeering, conspiracy, and violating Berg's civil rights (which are federal crimes). Both were sentenced to what were, for all practical purposes, life terms; Lane's sentence was 190 years, while Pierce's was 252 years.
David Lane was a former Klansman who later joined the Neo-Nazi Christian Identity group Aryan Nation. He steadfastly denied any involvement in Berg's murder, but neither did he regret that Berg was dead. In an interview presented as part of the History Channel documentary, Nazi America: A Secret History, Lane admitted to calling the show and goading Berg into an exchange and stated: "The only thing I have to say about Alan Berg is, regardless of who did it, he has not mouthed his hate-whitey propaganda from his 50,000-watt zionist pulpit for quite a few years". Lane, incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, died of an epileptic seizure at age 68 on May 28, 2007. One of the alleged gunmen in the Berg assassination, Bruce Pierce, who was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Complex in Union County, Pennsylvania, died of natural causes at age 56 on August 16, 2010. Craig and Scutari were convicted of unrelated crimes. The leader of The Order, Robert Jay Mathews, believed, although never proven, to be a lookout in the Berg shooting, was burned to death during a standoff with federal authorities on December 8, 1984, at his home in Coupeville, Washington.
In popular culture
Steven Dietz's 1988 play God's Country and the 1988 film Betrayed were based on the incident, as was the film Brotherhood of Murder (1999). Additionally, director Oliver Stone's 1988 film adaptation of Eric Bogosian's play Talk Radio also drew inspiration from Berg's death. His murder is mentioned in the 2017 PBS American Experience documentary "Oklahoma City".
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- Howard Pankratz (August 17, 2010). "Neo-Nazi gunman in Alan Berg's murder dies in prison". The Denver Post. Retrieved August 17, 2010.
- "Robert Jay Mathews, founder of the white-supremacist group The Order, is killed during an FBI siege on Whidbey Island on December 8, 1984". Retrieved 7 August 2018.