It’s been four years since a young, ultra-right-wing Norwegian man killed 77 people on the 22nd of July, 2011, because he was angry at the government for allowing too much immigration. As Norwegians remember that day of terror carried out by one of their own, a memorial center was opening to the public to make sure they don’t forget.
“I think most people just want to forget about the perpetrator, and what he did that day,” Agnes Moxnes, a commentator for state broadcaster NRK, said on its nightly national newscast on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the attacks. “But it’s important that we don’t.”
She recommended against going alone to the new exhibit, which was described by the government minister now in charge of it, Jan Tore Sanner, as “strong, painful and important.” Eskil Pedersen, who led the Labour Party youth group AUF when its summer camp was targeted during the attacks, said that many survivors cried during a preview showing of the memorial center, and he did too.
“The center tells the story (of the attacks) in a good and balanced manner,” Pedersen told NRK. “It’s the story of the evil that hit us.”
While there’s been some criticism that the center’s exhibitions may give the lone bomber and gunman the attention he craves, the leader of the survivors’ support group thinks the emphasis is on the victims and that it’s important for coming generations to learn about what happened. Dag André Anderssen, who was on AUF’s summer camp island of Utøya when 69 people were massacred and scores more wounded, said he found the exhibits “touching and important.”
Sanner, the government minister, doesn’t think the center will become a destination for right-wing extremists like the Norwegian gunman, Anders Behring Breivik, who’s now serving Norway’s longest possible prison term and may remain in custody for life. “It’s important that young people see what extremism can lead to, and that they can discuss how people can avoid extremism and hate,” Sanner told NRK. “I don’t think this will become a gathering place for right-wing extremists, since it’s a place that reminds us about the victims.”
The center was set to open at 2pm on Wednesday after another memorial ceremony at the site of the bombed-out government complex in downtown Oslo Wednesday morning. Prime Minister Erna Solberg was also scheduled to speak at a noon memorial service in the Oslo Cathedral at noon, which would also be attended by the crown prince and princess in addition to other dignitaries.
Yet another memorial ceremony was scheduled at 4pm on the island of Utøya, where the prime minister would also participate. A new monument to the victims would also be unveiled on the island, featuring the names of all 69 people killed. AUF plans to hold its first summer camp back on the island in early August.