CHARLES J. KERSTEN PAPERS
1919-1972, bulk 1946-1960

Biographical Note


Charles J. Kersten was an attorney and three-term U.S. Representative (Rep.) from the 5th Congressional District of Wisconsin who earned an international reputation as a staunch anti-communist and ardent supporter of efforts to liberate people living under communist regimes.  Kersten's congressional career began in 1946, when he won election to the 80th Congress (January 1947 - January 1949). He lost his re-election bid in 1948, but he won election again in 1950 and 1952, serving in the 82nd and 83rd Congresses (January 1951 - January 1955).  Kersten campaigned unsuccessfully for a congressional seat in 1954 and 1956.

During his first term in Congress, Kersten gained public attention for his investigation of communist membership in labor unions.  In 1951 Kersten authored the famous "Kersten Amendment," which directed Congress to appropriate $100 million annually to "support resistance behind the Iron Curtain."  During his third term in Congress, Kersten chaired the House Select Committee on Communist Aggression, sometimes referred to as the Kersten Committee.  The committee held hearings in Europe and elsewhere investigating communist methods for taking over captive nations and gathering testimony of persons who had suffered under communist rule.  For these efforts, Kersten was denounced by Soviet representatives in the United Nations as an "international criminal."

Born in 1902, Kersten graduated from Marquette University Law School in 1925 and established a private law practice in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  From 1937-1943 Kersten served as Assistant District Attorney for Milwaukee County.  From 1943-1945 he was a training officer in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve.

After leaving Congress in 1955, Kersten served briefly as White House Consultant on Psychological Warfare.  In February 1956 he returned to private law practice in Milwaukee.  Kersten remained an outspoken anti-communist for the rest of his life, lending his name and support to anti-communist causes throughout the world.  In 1958 he agreed to act as Secretary General of the World Anti-Communist Congress for Freedom and Liberation.

Kersten died in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 31, 1972.