Breivik massacre: Backlash over Norway memorial plan

By Lars Bevanger
BBC News, Utoeya

image copyrightJonas Dahlberg Studio
image captionA digital impression of the planned memorial shows a gaping hole in the headland near Utoeya island

A planned national memorial for the victims of Norwegian extreme-right mass killer Anders Behring Breivik could be postponed as locals and victims' relatives oppose the plan.

The terror attacks, against government buildings in Oslo and a Labour party youth summer camp on Utoeya island, left 77 people dead and hundreds injured.

They left behind both a very public, national trauma and untold stories of personal grief across Norway.

Local memorials have already been unveiled in towns and villages that lost someone either in the bombing or during the Utoeya shootings.

The then Labour-led government decided two national monuments should also be built, each one near a site of Breivik's attacks.

But now neighbours and some relatives of the victims say they do not want the Utoeya commemoration, and plan court action if it is not stopped.

'Getting sick'

"I think we have enough with the graves of our children and we have also memorial sites in our towns," Cathrine Lutken told the BBC.

"And we have Utoeya. We are reminded every day. It has to stop. We are getting sick."

She lost her 17-year-old daughter, Eva Kathinka, to Breivik's bullets at the Labour youth summer camp nearly three years ago, and has come to see for herself the proposed site for a national memorial.

"I think about it several times a day, I have difficulties sleeping at night," she said.

"There are a lot of us still struggling. It's terrible. Even three years later it's terrible."

The memorial would see a channel cut across the tip of a peninsula which points out towards Utoeya.

The names of the dead would be engraved on the cut rock.

'Cruel reminder'

Some 400 people live along the stretch of water overlooking the island.

Many of them helped save young Labour supporters who tried to swim away from the attack. Many others worked to save the lives of the severely injured who made it to land.

A petition delivered to the government this week shows a large majority of the neighbours are opposed to the memorial.

image copyrightJonas Dahlberg Studio
image captionThe design for the proposed memorial was chosen by a jury which includes relatives of the victims

"We will see this every day, a constant reminder of what we saw that day," said Ole Morten Jensen, who organised the petition.

"All the blood, the noises, the shooting, the screaming. No, I don't want to remember that.

"I think it is cruel for a government to expect us to be reminded of that. It's not necessary. There are a lot of places where nobody lives where they could put this."

Mr Jensen and other locals have now hired a lawyer to prepare for civil action against the government should the memorial go ahead as planned.

To avoid any court action and further upset, the Norwegian authority responsible for public art, which commissioned the winning entry, earlier this week invited all interested parties to an open meeting to discuss the way forward.

'Balancing opinions'

The memorial design was chosen from many entries by a jury which also included representatives of the victims' relatives.

Trond Blattmann, leader of the 22 July support group and father to one of the Utoeya victims, defended the choice to the meeting.

"The 22nd of July was a national catastrophe," he said, "and you know as well as me that out of those who lost their lives on 22 July, the entire country was represented. That's why we need national memorials too."

image captionCathrine Lutken, pictured at the site of the proposed memorial, still struggles to deal with her daughter's death

The jury's leader, Jorn Mortensen from the Oslo National Academy of the Arts, said the protests did not surprise him, but he felt the proposed memorial was the right choice.

"There are always different opinions about memorial proposals," he told the BBC.

"That was also the case in Washington DC when Maya Lin's proposal for the Vietnam veterans' memorial was introduced.

"So it's actually part of the commemoration process to balance different opinions about the memorial."

It is now up to Norway's new, centre-right government to decide on further action. It had planned for the Utoeya memorial site to open before 22 July 2015, in time for the fourth anniversary of the terror attacks.

Now, that date may slip, while the authorities and those opposing the plans try to agree on a solution.

Both sides say they hope a row over how to best remember the 22 July dead does not end up in court.

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