War hero’s statue mired in debate

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A new statue of Norwegian Resistance hero Max Manus is nearly ready for unveiling, but a quarrel over where the statue should be located has cancelled plans for the unveiling festivities that were to be held on Liberation Day, May 8.

Max Manus is one of Norway's greatest war heroes, and was the subject of a recent, immensely popular film about his dramatic life. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

Debate broke out months ago, after city officials agreed to place the new statue of Max Manus at the popular Aker Brygge waterfront complex, built on the site of the old Aker shipyard. They thought that was a fitting location, since some of Manus’ most spectacular sabotage actions against German occupiers during World War II involved blowing up ships in the harbour.

But then wartime experts argued that the actual sabotage actions that made Manus a war hero didn’t occur at Aker Brygge, but rather at Akershuskaia, the quay on the other side of Oslo’s inner harbour. The sabotage that took place at the old Aker Mek and Nyland Mek shipyards where Aker Brygge now stands were carried out by the so-called Pelle group, which also is getting a statue to commemorate its work towards freeing Norway from German occupation.

War history experts claim it’s fine for the Pelle statue to be located at Aker Brygge, but that it would be historically misleading to place the Max Manus statue there. Another surviving war hero who already has a statue of his own in Oslo, Gunnar Sønsteby, entered the debate recently as well, saying that he believed it would be better to place the Max Manus statue at the Akershus quay where Manus’ sabotage took place.

It would seem a simple matter of then erecting the Manus statue at Akershuskaia, but city officials and many others still favour Aker Brygge if only because the statue would receive a lot more attention there. The residential and commercial waterfront complex attracts large crowds year ’round, and not just in the summer, while the other side of the harbour doesn’t get anywhere near the traffic. More people, they argue, would see the statue and be reminded of Max Manus’ contribution to winning the war.

The ongoing debate finally prompted those who have financed the statue to cancel plans for its unveiling and reevalute where it will be erected.

“The location argument has unfortunately completely overshadowed the importance that one of our foremost war heroes is in fact being honoured, 14 years after he died,” Hilde Enerud of Unica Art and Samlerhuset told newspaper Aftenposten. She said she and the others who took the initiative to create the statue “feel it would be difficult to fulfill the goal of honouring Max Manus.”

Sculptor Per Ung agrees that the location quarrel must not overshadow the importance of Max Manus. Meanwhile, the war hero’s daughter, Mette Manus, thinks it’s very nice that a statue of her father has been made, but stresses that she has nothing to do with where it will be placed.

“The family was positive towards Aker Brygge, but understands that there is disagreement,” she told Aftenposten.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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