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 an American attorney and talk radio show host in Denver, Colorado. Berg was known for his liberal, outspoken viewpoints and confrontational interview style. On June 18, 1984, Berg was fatally shot by members of the white nationalist group The Order. Those involved in the killing were identified as part of a group planning to kill prominent Jews such as Berg. Two of them, David Lane and Bruce Pierce, were convicted on charges of civil rights violations, although neither was charged with homicide. They were sentenced to 190 years and 252 years in prison, respectively.
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 hired by KOA (AM) and debuted on February 23, 1981. He worked at KOA until his death.
His program 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 coronary artery 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" both because he was Jewish and 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 have been a lookout in the Berg shooting, 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). 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". Berg's life and death were chronicled in the book, Talked to Death: The Life and Murder of Alan Berg by Stephen Singular.
- 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.
- Erickson, Hal (2017). Any Resemblance to Actual Persons: The Real People Behind 400+ Fictional Movie Characters. McFarland. p. 61. ISBN 9781476629308.
- 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.
- "The murder of Alan Berg in Denver: 25 years later". Denver Post. June 18, 2009. Retrieved December 12, 2012.
- Knudson, Thomas J (October 31, 1987). "Trial Opens in Slaying of Radio Talk Show Host". the New York Times. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
- 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.
- "Death List Names Given To U.S. Jury". The New York Times/Associated Press. September 17, 1985. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
- "Alan Berg". Fold3. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
- 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.
- "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.