Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Victor Berger, Socialist Leader and Former Congressman, Dies

August 9, 1929
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Victor L. Berger, former member of the United States Congress and Socialist leader, died here yesterday afternoon at the age of 69. Death came twenty-two days after he was struck by a street car, suffering a fracture of the skull. Until Wednesday, he had been improving and his recovery was hoped for but his condition suddenly became worse an hour before his death. Mr. Berger is survived by his widow and two daughters.

Born February 28, 1860, at Nieder, Rehbach, Austria-Hungary, Mr. Berger came to the United States in 1878. Since 1911, he was editor of the Milwaukee “Leader,” Socialist daily. Mr. Berger was elected a member of the 52nd United States Congress in 1911, representing the Fifth Wisconsin District and being the first Socialist to be elected to the United States Congress.

He opposed the entry of the United States into the World War, but he declared it was not because he was German-born but because of principle. He was indicted five times as the result of charges growing out of alleged acts of disloyalty, and former Federal Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis in Chicago sentenced him to twenty years’ imprisonment in February, 1919.

He was again elected to Congress in November, 1918, but was excluded on the charge of disloyalty to the United States and having given aid and comfort to the enemy in time of war. In 1919, he was again elected to Congress but again refused admission. In 1921 his appeal from Judge Landis’ decision went to the Supreme Court from the Appellate Court and the decision was reversed. The government quashed all the indictments against him and he (Continued on Page 8)

was re-elected to the 69th and 70th Congresses.

He was finally seated without a dissenting vote on December 3, 1923, all charges aginst him having been with-drawn.

The late Mr. Berger was a member of the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party for many years and was a representative at the international conferences. At the time of his death, he was National Chairman of the Party.

Since 1900, when he became editor of the “Wahrheit” and the “Social Democratic Herald,” Mr. Berger wrote on numerous social and political questions. His writings were a powerful influence in swinging Milwaukee into the the Socialist ranks.

In 1893, Victor Berger became acquainted with Eugene V. Debs. While Debs became the orator and presidential candidate of the party, Mr. Berger was the organizer.

Recommended from JTA