Swedes reflect on the death of Olof Palme

Swedes reflect on the death of Olof Palme
A quarter century after the assassination of former Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, contributor Anita Badejo talks to Swedes about their memories of the killing and how it affected the country.

Palme was shot dead on February 28th, 1986 while walking home from the movies in central Stockholm with his wife, Lisbet Palme.

His killer has yet to be found, and the shock of having the country’s top politician killed while strolling through the streets of the capital had a profound effect – both then and now – on Swedish society

Standing just steps away from the site where Palme was shot, 51-year-old Katarina Sjöndeson of Stockholm, explains that Palme’s assassination served as a wake-up call for the country.

“We sort of realized that violence also occurs here in Sweden– violent death,” she says.

“We had never had a politician before that was murdered in Sweden, so that kind of shocked us… But, we should be used to it because we are watching television all the time. So, obviously it’s here as well as everywhere in the world.”

Bitte Lundborg, 68, also of Stockholm echoes Sjöndeson’s statements, asserting that Palme’s death made Swedes realize they weren’t as “innocent” as they had thought themselves to be.

“We thought it was a very open-minded society and things like that couldn’t really happen,” Lundborg says, adding that the assassination is “like a wound” in Sweden’s history.

Standing just a few steps away from the site of Palme’s death on what is today Olof Palmes Gata, 63-year-old Stockholm resident Harry Granberg says he believes Sweden has become a more “closed” country since the event.

“We have been more like other countries [now], I think,” he says, after noting that issues of safety and security which were less often considered by Swedes are now concerns for them as well, and not only citizens of other nations.

While there seems to be much consensus that Palme’s death affected Sweden deeply, there is less agreement over whether the case of his assassination should be left open for further investigation.

Due in part to the ongoing Palme investigation, Sweden recently altered laws governing the statute of limitations on especially serious crimes. As a result, the case will remain open beyond the previous limit of 25 years in hopes that his killer may still one day be found.

“It better be open,” says Rolf Vandenbrink, 52, of Stockholm. Vandenbrink cites the technological advancements of the past quarter-century as reason to believe Palme’s killer could still be tracked down with the aid of new skills and equipment.

Anette Zellen, 47, of Sollentuna is similarly hopeful.

“Why should they close it?” she asks.

“I mean, they maybe can find someone who is responsible for it.”

Yet, others believe the time has come to end the search.

“I don’t think they’re ever going to find who did it,” says Steven, a 32-year-old Stockholm resident.

“For me, it doesn’t really matter who did it or not. It’s so old and you can’t change anything after so many years. I don’t see the point. Even if they would find the killer or know who it is, I don’t think it would matter so much.”

Peter, a 55-year-old Stockholm resident, also believes the case of Palme’s killing should be closed, but for more optimistic reasons.

“They probably can close it. Then, maybe someone will come out and say, ‘Well, I did it,’ or ‘I know who did it’,” Peter explains.

“But [if the investigation remains open], that person may still be afraid they would be caught and might not be interested in stepping forward.”

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