July 25th 2011. The father of Norway’s mass murderer, Anders Behring Breivik, said today that he wished his son had committed suicide.
Jens Breivik, 76, spoke from his villa in rural France saying “I don’t feel like his father. How could he just stand there and kill so many innocent people and seem to think that what he did was OK? He should have taken his own life too. That’s what he should have done.”
Mr Breivik, formerly a Norwegian diplomat, added: “I will have to live with this shame for the rest of my life. People will always link me with him.”
Hmmm. After the massacres in Oslo and on the Utoya summer camp island, Breivik Senior quickly became known as a father who was absent in his son Anders’ childhood and adult life. It is tempting to say that if Jens did not feel like Anders’ father that may be because he had not behaved like a father in the 32 years since his son was born.
It’s important not to jump to conclusions of course. Newspapers reported that Jens Breivik and his new wife applied for custody of Anders back when he was an innocent little boy. Perhaps Anders’ father was not entirely to blame for being absent during his son’s childhood.
Still, Jens Breivik told a journalist from Sweden’s Expressen newspaper: “He must live in another world….He has ruined so many lives.”
Yet perhaps Anders lived in a make-believe world because the world in which he grew up without a father was too painful?
The extent of Anders’ alienation from his own father was made clear in an interview in which his step-mot her mentioned that she had never met her stepson. Her husband, Ander’s father, it was revealed had had only one “short, bland” telephone call with his son, 10 years ago.
Anders had good reason to feel alienated from his father. Jens Breivik already had three children from a previous marriage (Erik, Jan and Nina) when he met Anders’s mother, Wenche Behring. Wenche already had a daughter, born during a previous relationship. Into this chaotic arrangement, Anders was born – and his father promptly cleared off when Anders was just one year old.
When Jens Breivik left Wenche and Anders he married Tove Xvermo – known as Wanda – and applied for custody of his son. The application failed and Anders subsequently grew up with his mother and a stepfather, experiencing more family dislocation. As a small child, Anders sometimes visited his father and Tove in their flat in Paris and their holiday home in Normandy. But when Anders was an adolescent, contact with his father stopped abruptly.
There are no definitive answers yet about the state of mind that prompted Anders Breivik to slaughter dozens of young Norwegians in cold blood in July 2011.
Yet his estranged father’s statement – that Anders should have killed himself – seems to be the epitome of paternal rejection and this writer, for one, wonders exactly what impact the absence of Jens Breivik – during his son’s childhood and crucial adolescent years – had on the young man who would later decide to massacre teenagers in the care of the Norwegian socialist party which his own missing father supported. The terrible tale of Anders Breivik’s killing spree will undoubtedly prove to be very complex. Ten to one, though, that his father’s absence during Ander’s childhood will turn out to have played a significant part in this very chilling episode in Norway’s history.