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Berger, Victor


BERGER, VICTOR (1860–1929), U.S. journalist, socialist leader, and congressman. Berger was born in Nieder-Reh-bach, Austria. In 1880 he immigrated to the United States and settled in Milwaukee, where he taught German and also taught Sunday School at the Bnei Yeshuron synagogue. In 1892 Berger became editor of the Milwaukee Daily Vorwaerts, a German-language socialist paper, and in 1897 he helped to found the American Socialist Party. A conservative socialist influenced by the writings of Eduard Bernstein, Berger joined ranks with Morris *Hillquit in opposing the influence of the communists and such radicals as Daniel *De Leon in the socialist camp. In 1908 he became editor of the weekly Social Democratic Herald, which was later replaced by the daily Milwaukee Leader, a newspaper that he then headed until his death. In 1911 Berger was elected to Congress from Wisconsin, thereby becoming the first avowed socialist to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he was known for his advocacy of labor legislation and social reform. His opposition to America's entry into World War i led the postmaster general to revoke the mailing privileges of his Milwaukee Leader on the grounds of its being a subversive journal, and Berger himself was indicted under the Espionage Act. A court conviction led to a 20-year sentence, as a result of which the House refused to seat him when he won the off-year election in 1918 and again the following year when he won in a rerun. In 1921, however, the Supreme Court reversed his conviction, and a year later, in consequence of this ruling and the general abatement of war hysteria, the House allowed him his seat which he continued to hold until 1928. At the time of his death he was chairman of the National Executive Board of the American Socialist Party.

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