|Born||January 1, 1934
|Died||June 18, 1984
|Cause of death||Murder|
|Occupation||Lawyer, radio show host|
Alan Harrison Berg (January 1, 1934 – June 18, 1984) was an American attorney and talk radio show host in Denver, Colorado. Berg was known for his largely 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 for their involvement in the case, though neither of homicide.
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 a long fringe 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.
Berg was on a death list according to a former producer because he was Jewish and he challenged on the air the beliefs of an author who wrote that Jews were from the family line of the devil. 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 which was responsible for organizing the assassination, a founding member of the group, Denver Daw Parmenter, was asked why Berg was targeted, he responded “He 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.
Popular culture representations
Steven Dietz's 1988 play God's Country and the 1988 film Betrayed was based on the incident, as well as 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 plight.
- "The murder of Alan Berg in Denver: 25 years later". Denver Post. June 18, 2009. Retrieved December 12, 2012.
- Coates, James (September 14, 1985). "Neo-nazi Targets". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
- Dobbs, David (October 30, 1987). "The Bizarre Tales of the Survival Right". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
- Estés, Clarissa Pinkola (May 30, 2007). "The Ironies: White Supremacist Convicted of Slaying Alan Berg Dies". The Moderate Voice. Archived from the original on December 15, 2007. Retrieved December 12, 2012.
- Biography. Internet Movie Database.
- Dennis King: Lyndon LaRouche and the new American fascism, Doubleday, 1989, page 145
- Stephen Singular: Talked to Death, Berkeley 1989, page 147
- Flynn, Kevin (May 1, 2007). Fighting racism for 20 years - Neo-Nazi victim Alan Berg's ex-wife calls hate a 'disease'. Rocky Mountain News.
- "Gun used in slaying of talk show host found." Lexington Herald-Leader. December 18, 1984.
- Knudson, Thomas J (October 31, 1987). "Trial Opens in Slaying of Radio Talk Show Host". the New York Times. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
- "Death List Names Given To U.S. Jury". The New York Times/Associated Press. September 17, 1985. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
- "Alan Harrison Berg - Find A Grave Memorial# 8121998". Find A Grave. Nov 23, 2003. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
- White supremacist, talk show host killer dies in prison Archived May 28, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
- Howard Pankratz (August 17, 2010). "Neo-Nazi gunman in Alan Berg's murder dies in prison". The Denver Post. Retrieved August 17, 2010.
- http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&File_Id=7921 HistoryLink.org: The Free Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History. "Robert Jay Mathews, founder of the white-supremacist group The Order, is killed during an FBI siege on Whidbey Island on December 8, 1984," by Daryl C. McClary (December 6th, 2006).