The World from Berlin 'Breivik Came from the Center of Society'

As Norway mourns the dead of the Utøya massacre, other countries are wondering how such lone-wolf attacks can be prevented. German commentators weigh in on the debate.
Suspect Anders Behring Breivik leaving the Oslo courthouse on Monday.

Suspect Anders Behring Breivik leaving the Oslo courthouse on Monday.

Foto: Jon Are Berg Jacobsen/ dpa

Norway remained in shock on Tuesday, as officials planned to begin publicly naming those killed in Friday's bombing in central Oslo and the Utøya shooting spree that left at least 76 dead. 

Though officials lowered the death toll significantly on Monday, down from 93, the country's justice minister announced that workers from within his ministry were still missing after the massive explosion there.

The 32-year-old suspect Anders Behring Breivik,  who confessed to carrying out both the bombing and the bloody rampage at the Labor Party youth summer camp, pleaded not gulty to terrorism charges in court on Monday. After Breivik told the closed courtroom that he'd intended to save Europe from "Muslim domination," the judge in the case ordered the suspect be held for eight weeks while police conduct further investigation. Half of this time Breivik will be kept in complete isolation because the suspect mentioned he may have had accomplices.

Meanwhile thousands of grieving Norwegians turned out  for a gathering in Oslo on Tuesday in defiance of Breivik's hateful actions and right-wing populist message, carpeting parts of the city with flowers.

The brutal attacks have forced Germany and other European nations to question whether such events could take place on their own soil. On Tuesday, German newspapers continue grappling  with how best to react to such violence.

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

"What we need is without a doubt more vigilance online. The maverick who is radicalized online is also no longer unknown here at home, not after the Frankfurt man from Kosovo shot two American soldiers in early March, and was stopped only when his weapon jammed. The power of this propaganda is available worldwide. Those who prevent calls for hate and violence aren't limiting freedom. They are doing the opposite."

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"Societies characterized by great freedom have always been more vulnerable to terrorism. In Norway this has become particularly clear. The lone wolf from the obscurity of the Internet intensifies the problem, though. One more reason to confront the preachers of hate right there, along with their simplified world views, and their devaluation of others to the point of making them subhuman. Regardless of what religion they belong to."

The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

"The overriding reaction after the attacks on Friday was that Norway had lost its innocence. But the reality is that the country has long since lost its innocence. The country claims to be the capital of peace, but is tied up in wars that for them are no longer just taking place on television. Norwegian pilots are dropping bombs on Libya. Norwegian soldiers are dying in Afghanistan."

"In reality, Norway built this mythology itself (…) In domestic policy, Norway is characterized by a strong element of conformity. The espousal of northern European values and a generous social system effectively face no objections (…) At the same time a minority has been left behind, frustrated by these social developments but with hardly a way to vent their concerns in the open."

The left-leaning daily Berliner Zeitung writes:

"The photo shows the attacker as a preppy young man from a good family. Not a born fanatic, not someone who comes from a milieu where radicalism blooms (…) Many of the Germans in the (notorious left-wing extremist terror group) Red Army Faction also came from similarly unsuspicious middle-class settings. They were, according to their understanding, ready to employ terrorism and the spread of fear as a means of fighting the status quo only after hard consideration and long contemplation. Then they were ready, from the position of this 'insight,' to suffer the consequences."

"This terrorist came from the center of society. He is no outsider, and won't be made into one. He's no victim. He chose terrorism freely (…). What happened in Oslo was not just a deliberate act, but a sophisticated plan in which a lot of intellect had been invested (…). Evil isn't dumb. At least not dumber than the rest of us. Education doesn't protect us from evil."

The conservative Die Welt writes:

"The suspect received his first form of punishment yesterday. The court locked out the press and public from his custody review hearing. By following the state prosecutor's request, the court has put the brakes on the criminal's attempts to cultivate his image. In his overblown and derivative treatise, he had stated his intention to use the time after his arrest as a 'propaganda phase.'"

"The task of the media must be break through the thoughts and deeds of the murderer, against his wish to construct his image in a certain way."

The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:

"As long as Breivik is found fit to stand trial then he alone must bear the guilt of his megalomania. But that doesn't mean that (mainstream opinion-makers) and their adepts do not share any responsibility. Breivik is holding a bloody funhouse mirror up in front of them, and that is hard to take."

"But along with this imposition comes a chance for enlightenment. Anti-Muslim sentiments should now be harder to sell. (…) In light of this catastrophe, an opportunity has crystallized to finally distance themselves from the Islamophobia that has become dangerously mainstream."

-- Kristen Allen