As the trial of the man who killed 77 people in Norway’s worst terrorist attack starts, his father says the fallout led to him considering suicide.
Jens Breivik, 76 years old, told the Guardian:
“Constantly, I am reminded who I am. In the first few weeks, I thought seriously of taking my own life. I’ve lost the retirement I always imagined; that’s gone. I will forever be asking how a man could possibly develop such thoughts. And could I have done something?”
Jens, a former diplomat, now lives in France with his fourth wife. He has not seen his son since 1995, and they spoke on the phone once in 2005.
Anders Behring Breivik was born to Jens and his second wife, Wenche Behring, in 1979 when Jens was stationed in London. Within a year, the couple had separated.
Jens says that Wenche moved back to Oslo and prevented him from seeing his son. Wenche has never spoken publicly about her son, who was living with her in a flat last year, but is quoted in the psychological report as noticing “paranoid delusions” in Anders from 2006.
Jens married again in 1983 and was moved to Paris, but it had became clear that Anders’ mother was not doing well. Norwegian child authorities actually recommended he be moved and Jens and his new wife applied for custody. This was denied in court.
Anders would often visit, though, and Jens describes a normal childhood. In 1990, Jens returned to Oslo but his third marriage broke down and in 1995 he married for the fourth time. This led to the estrangement of his other three children and at the same time, Anders was not very accepting about his father’s concerns over his teenage rebelliousness.
That period, when Anders was 13-15 years old, is mentioned in his 1,500 page manifesto and Anders blames his father.
“I tried with Anders; I really tried. I knew about teenage boys, I knew what interests them. He was always: don’t know. Don’t care.”
Jens is haunted by what his son did and the choices he made which could have had some effect. He wonders if he had made more effort to see his son after 1995 what might have been.
“But I honestly thought he was okay,” he says. “Quiet, awkward, but not … abnormal. If he didn’t want to see me, there wasn’t really much I could do. I had no leverage. And anyway, after that he seemed successful, with his own business, employees. That was good, wasn’t it?”
“Some people do feel I am guilty,” he says. “I do have feelings of shame, disgrace. Damnation. Maybe … maybe I am to blame.”
Katharine Birbalsingh is one allocating the blame to Jens. Writing for the Telegraph, she blames him for the divorce and claims this would have had a ‘long term impact’ on the then-small Anders. She cites Anders mentioning of the relationship with his father in his ‘manifesto’ and finds fault in some of Jens’ quoted reactions immediately after the massacre.
“Jens Breivik is not a bad man. Anders Breivik is. But his father’s reaction to this event is disappointing, and demonstrates a lack of humanity that should be there,” she wrote.
Others had more direct contact with Anders immediately before the massacre. One strong possibility was the right-wing blogger and frequent Fox News guest Pamela Gellar. She published a post in 2007 from a Norwegian complaining about Muslims who said he was “stockpiling and caching weapons, ammunition and equipment.” Gellar’s writings make up a big portion of Anders ‘manifesto.’ As far as is known, Gellar has never been interviewed by the FBI.
Following the massacre, she joined those finding some sort of justification for it. She posted a picture of the young people gathered on the Island of Utøya, home to the Labour Party summer camp, from 24 hours before the massacre, and commented “note the faces which are more MIddle [sic] Eastern or mixed than pure Norwegian.” She called the camp an anti-Israel “indoctrination training center.”
There were many more. Pat Buchanan wrote a column arguing that “Breivik may be right.” On his radio show, Glenn Beck said the youth camp Breivik targeted, which could be compared to the College Democrats or other mainstream political organizations, reminded him of “Hitler Youth.”
Anders’ lawyer has said he wants to call 29 witnesses, including “Fjordman,” a Norwegian right-wing blogger and influence on Breivik, as part of Anders plea of ‘self defense.’
Jens may have made bad decisions in his life, but taking Anders Breivik’s words and his manifesto at face value, we should look elsewhere than Anders father for the finger pointing to why Anders felt justified killing 77 people in cold blood.
Picture by Oslo politidistrikt