Mourning the Utøya Victims Norwegians Respond to Massacre with Quiet Dignity
Anders Behring Breivik, who has confessed to Friday's attacks in Norway, said he wanted to create a new order in the country. He has succeeded in shaking the nation to its core, but Norwegians are refusing to give in to hate. They are mourning the dead with dignity and are determined to uphold their open and democratic society.
*When this article first appeared 85 people had reportedly been killed on the island of Utøya, and another seven in the bomb attack in Oslo, totalling 93. Police have since adjusted this count to 68 on Utøya and eight in Oslo, bringing the total dead to 76.
There is almost no hope of finding further survivors of Friday's massacre on the Norwegian island of Utøya. Rescue workers have been combing the shore around the island for the past two days, while divers search the water.
Dead bodies are believed to also be lying under the rubble in the capital Oslo, where an explosion in the government quarter on Friday killed at least seven people. The Norwegian broadcaster NRK reported on Sunday that over 30 people were still missing. It seems likely that the death toll, currently at 93, will continue to rise.
On Sunday, more details emerged about Anders Behring Breivik, the 32-year-old Norwegian man who has admitted to carrying out the massacre on Utøya and the Oslo bombing. A picture was drawn of an ice-cold, cynical and deeply disturbed individual, whose motives are hard for normal people to understand.
On Monday, Breivik is due to make his first public statement at a court appearance. During questioning by police, he described the attacks as "gruesome but necessary," according to his lawyer Geir Lippestad. Shortly before he detonated the bomb, Breivik published a 1,516-page document on the Internet in which he laid out his confused ideology. He wanted to save Europe from "cultural Marxism and Islamization," he wrote. Breivik had apparently been planning the attacks for nine years and is thought to have bought tons of fertilizer as an ingredient for making bombs earlier this year.
Calm and Controlled
During Friday's 90-minute shooting spree on Utøya, Breivik appeared calm and controlled and almost relaxed, survivor Adrian Precon told the German news agency DPA in an interview. Police said at a news conference that the perpetrator still had plenty of ammunition left when he was arrested.
Breivik apparently used so-called dum-dum bullets, which are designed to disintegrate in the body of the victim and cause very serious internal injuries. Surgeons who had treated 16 people with gunshot wounds had so far been unable to remove any complete bullets from the bodies of the patients, Colin Poole, head of surgery at Ringriket Hospital in the city of Honefoss, told the Associated Press. "These bullets more or less exploded inside the body," Poole said. "They inflicted internal damage that's absolutely horrible."
Breivik's father, who divorced Breivik's mother shortly after his birth, told the Norwegian tabloid newspaper Verdens Gang that he had had no contact with his son since 1995. At the time he had been a "very ordinary boy" with no interest in politics, the father said. He said that what had happened was incomprehensible and that he was in shock.
On Sunday it was revealed that Breivik had been an active member of the Norwegian right-wing populist Progress Party (FrP) for years. The party, which was founded in the 1970s as an anti-tax movement, rails against immigrants and the power of the political establishment. It became the second strongest force in Norway's parliament following the 2009 elections.
Calls for More Democracy
The peaceful Scandinavian country was completely unprepared for the attacks. Ordinary people are asking themselves how such violence can happen in their country, with its high standard of living and low levels of social inequality.
The massacre has hit the core of Norwegian society. Breivik exploited, in a terrible way, exactly those things that make Norway what it is: an open and free society, where there is little fear of violence and top politicians talk to people in the streets without bodyguards.
According to his lawyer, Breivik said that he wanted to damage Norwegian society and create a new order. He has succeeded in hitting Norwegian society hard, but it remains to be seen whether it will change.
Even in their shock and mourning, the Norwegians have not become hysterical and they are resisting hate. They are deeply saddened, but nobody has called for revenge and there have been no knee-jerk reactions to the massacre. Instead, the Norwegians say they now want more humanity and more democracy. It is an impressive sign of the strength of this small nation.