Breivik’s father takes on blame

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Jens Breivik, the former Norwegian diplomat and father of convicted mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik, admits in his new book that he “could have done more” for his troubled son. The book offers the elder Breivik’s version of the family’s troubled past that climaxed with his son killing 77 people on July 22, 2011.

Jens Breivik, a career diplomat and father of the man who killed 77 persons in Norway last summer, appearing on NRK's Brennpunkt program Wednesday night. PHOTO: NRK

NRK’s “Brennpunkt” program secured an exclusive interview with Jens Breivik after his son killed 77 people in Norway. Now the elder Breivik has written a book offering his version of his son. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

“This is not written as a document of self-defense,” Breivik writes in the prologue of the book, which is being released this week by publisher Juritzen Forlag. The book, entitled Min skyld? En fars historie (My fault? A father’s story),  features a red cover with a sketch of of his son as he was dressed for battle on the day he unleashed his terror on Norway.

The younger Breivik, now serving what may amount to a life term in prison, has claimed he was attacking Norway’s Labour Party-led government at the time for allowing too many immigrants into Norway. Brandishing right-wing extremism, he blamed the Labour Party for Norway’s transformation into a multi-cultural society and wanted to kill off the next generation of Labour leaders. First he bombed the government headquarters in Oslo, killing eight people, and then carried out a massacre on the island of Utøya where Labour’s youth organization was holding its annual summer camp. He killed 69 more people there and wounded scores and traumatized hundreds more. The Labour Party is still coming to grips with what happened, and the attacks have been considered the worst on Norway since World War II.

The younger Breivik has insisted he was not mentally ill and that he had a fine upbringing, but his father paints a far different picture. Jens Breivik mostly blames himself for not being present during his son’s upbringing, following his divorce from Breivik’s mother Wenche Behring.

‘Strange’ and ‘messy’ life
“I have done a lot of strange things and had a rambling, messy life,” Jens Breivik writes. “I have been married four times and I wish I’d met my present wife 50 years ago. I wish a lot of things had been different.”

Referring to all the books and news articles written about the July 22 attacks, Jens Breivik wrote that so many other authors have had so many opinions about July 22 and who he (his son) was, that it was time for people to read his version. He called much of what has been written about himself and his relations with his son as “speculation, half-truths and fiction.”

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), which interviewed the elder Breivik for its investigatory Brennpunkt program after the attacks, reported how Jens Breivik remains afraid to complain or criticize, however. That’s because “even though I am in a way a victim of my son’s actions, in no way am I the greatest victim. There are so many other who have suffered so terribly more.”

He confirmed that he tried to obtain legal custody of his son in the 1980s. He was living with his new wife in Paris at the time and had heard from a neighbour of his former family in Oslo that things were not well at home. Shortly after that, he received word from the child protective authorities in Oslo (Barnevernet) that the entire family (his ex-wife, son and daughter) had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital for observation.

“This came as a shock to me,” Jens Breivik wrote. “I had figured that if (his ex-wife) Wenche had problems, she would have contacted me and told me to help care for Anders. But she had never taken any contact with me.”

‘Lazy… and nearly apathetic’
He lost his attempt to gain custody, claiming that his ex-wife’s lawyer raised doubts about the psychiatric evaluation and that the judge in the case was conservative and allowed Wenche Behring Breivik to retain custody. Jens Breivik did start having more regular contact with this son, though, with Anders visiting him in France an average of twice a year plus trips to Jens Breivik’s holiday cabin in Norway.

Jens Breivik writes that his son appeared to be reserved and bothered about something. When the elder Breivik, a career diplomat for Norway’s foreign ministry, moved back to Norway, they had more contact but he found his son “lazy and nearly apathetic,” and he never talked about life at home with his mother and sister. Contact eventually was cut as Anders grew older.

When his son’s trial was over, Jens Breivik received a letter from his son in which Anders referred to “media propaganda” that a “so-called longing” for his father had been in a “factor in my radicalization process.” He blamed state authorities for damaging the role of men in society, and that his own father had been been a victim of it for losing custody of him. Jens Breivik said he was shaken by his son’s “totally impersonal” letter but wrote back, saying he felt sorry for him, “because I think there is still something human in you that is worth taking care of.”

Wenche Behring Breivik has since died of cancer and a book about her life set off controversy last year. Jens Breivik’s book was written with co-author Thomas JR Marthinsen, who helped Breivik with the manuscript. The elder Breivik now lives in France.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund