Who is Fritz Berggren? Over 70 state dept officials want ‘antisemitic’ colleague axed
Over 70 staffers at the State Department have called on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to dismiss their colleague Fritz Berggren. Described as "openly antisemitic", Berggren reportedly operates a website where he asks Jewish people to convert to Christianity and attacks members of the LGBTQ community. The letter was sent to Blinken in July but has just made its way to the public after an exclusive report by Foreign Policy.
Despite public pressure, and action by social media companies, antisemitism remains an ongoing issue. Berggren isn't the only known antisemitic. Right now, the GOP's frontrunner for New York's Mayor is Curtis Silwa, who in a 2018 rant said Jews "the worst when it comes to siphoning off social services." In June, Google came under immense criticism after it said it won't be firing Kamau Bobb, their head of diversity despite once writing Jews have an "insatiable appetite for war". In May, Nashville artist Gigi Gaskins went viral for selling 'not vaccinated' Star of David patches.
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Antisemitism has become a major flashpoint around Covid-19, with many like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene repeatedly comparing vaccine mandates to Nazi laws. But there are plenty of other antisemitic actions, as the story of Berggren shows. His website and actions inside the department's Foggy Bottom headquarters have fuelled the calls for his axing, but it is unclear if that has happened. Here's everything we know about Berggren, and why his colleagues want him gone.
Who is Fritz Berggren?
Described as a mid-ranking Foreign Service officer, Berggren was assigned to a State Department unit that handles special immigrant visas for Afghans as of February 2021. Before that, he was a financial management officer at the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain, according to POLITICO. It also appears he may have served in Baghdad, Iraq, and lived for some time in Colorado Springs. Little information is available about Berggren, as he has since taken down his Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. It's unclear when exactly he joined the State Department, but Congressional documents show him associated with the department as far back as 2009.
Another report in the Colorado Times Recorded noted that Berggren was serving overseas, possibly in Afghanistan. He appears to be a registered Republican who votes in El Paso County, Texas. According to the University of Miami, Berggren obtained a Ph.D. in 2001 from the College of Arts and Sciences for his dissertation about Cuban dictator Gerardo Machado. It's unclear where he obtained his Bachelor's and Master's degrees from. A blog named Christian Nations says Berggren is a "father of four and husband", and notes that "Everything I write is ONLY my personal opinion."
Those personal opinions blew up in February 2021, when POLITICO was the first to report about Berggren. That led to a July 28 letter to Blinken, but it appears no action has been taken. Foreign Policy reported on August 31 that Berggren is still an employee at the State Department, but appears to have been moved to Washington DC. The news has come as a disappointment to other employees, who have slammed Blinken for not acting.
History of antisemitism
Posts dating back to 2007 can be found on Berggren's website bloodandfaith.com. Since then, he has controversially been posting numerous antisemitic content, which his colleagues have called "highly disturbing". In one post from August 1, Berggren says, "Jesus Christ came to save the whole world from the Jews—the founders of the original Anti-Christ religion, they who are the seed of the Serpent, that brood of vipers." A February 11 post is titled "If the U.S. Refuses To Be A Christian Nation, It Will Be Destroyed". Many of these posts are still up on the blog.
When POLITICO first published the piece on Berggren, he shared it on Facebook and said, "Thank you, politico, truly, for spreading the word. Jesus Christ is Lord of every nation." In another February 17 post, he said, "come on Whites, time to fight for our children." In July, someone drew a swastika on the wall of an elevator at the department's office. Berggren was never held as the one responsible, but the act is also mentioned in the angry letter to Blinken. "While there is no evidence that Berggren is behind the swastika... his continued employment with seemingly no consequences sends a message of impunity that has undoubtedly contributed to the atmosphere in which someone would dare to do such a thing," the letter says.
The letter was organized by the Jewish Americans and Friends in Foreign Affairs employee group. On August 9, Blinken responded to the letter and said, "I want to assure you that the Department treats reports of alleged misconduct with the utmost seriousness." He, however, refused to mention Berggren by name, or specifically cite if he would be fired. Responding to Foreign Policy's reporting, Berggren said, "If even one Jew or Gentile is converted then it is well worth whatever inconveniences may ensue."
An investigation into the swastika is ongoing, and it appears possibly into Berggren as well. However, as some officials conceded there is little Blinken can do, given that Federal employees are also protected under the First Amendment. The signatories to the letter claim Berggren "appears to violate State Department rules on publishing views in a personal capacity while using their State Department affiliation," but that doesn't appear to be the case. "In my opinion, what I do at bloodandfaith.com has absolutely nothing to do with my employer, and that’s why I never identified my employer," he said on June 26.