Norway island youth camp reopens fours years after Breivik massacre

Norway reopens a youth labour camp four years after a right-wing gunman killed 69 people in a rampage.

UTOYA, NORWAY (AUGUST 7, 2015) (TV2) – More than 1,000 young activists gathered on Friday (August 7) on the Norwegian island of Utoya for the official opening of their political party’s summer camp, the first meeting there since a right-wing gunman killed 69 people in a rampage four years ago.

The president of the centre-left Labour Party youth organisation, Syrian-born Mani Hussaini, greeted former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland.

Some of the youths had crossed in the same ferry that took Anders Behring-Breivik, disguised as a policeman, to the island in July 2011 after he earlier had set off a car bomb outside the prime minister’s office in the centre of Oslo. The bomb killed eight people.

The killings were the worst atrocity in Norway since World War Two, traumatising a nation that prides itself on its reputation for peace and safety.

Small signs dot the island with names of victims engraved on steel plates fixed to trees.

“One can never forget something like this. And one should not forget. But after a while one learns to live with this kind of grief, so things are going much better today. It is a bit strange to be back, at the same time it feels very good. Like Mani said in his speech: We have finally come home again. On beforehand I was wondering what kind of feelings would come back to me, but it has only been good feelings. Yesterday I felt that this is right, and that the time is right,” said Ruben Havik, a survivor of the 2011 attack.

“It’s a special bond between the people who were here then. It’s good to have the bond with the others who were here and be able to talk about your feelings,” he added.

Brundtland, who in 2011 left the camp shortly before Breivik arrived, was shown around the island and told a new building was named in her honour.

“I received a little hint about this a few days ago. Then they were talking about “Brundtland Hall”. No, I said – it must be “Gro Hall” if you are going to name me.”

“All of us who were a part of the movement knew Utøya. So did some of the Nordic social democrats who had been visiting. But because of what happened, Utøya has become a concept internationally. People recognise the name. It becomes a symbol for never letting oneself be oppressed and thwarted by those who tries to destroy democracy and freedom of speech. In that way things are not quite as they were, even though it is very recognisable. And there is youth here who are filled with joy, like it’s always been. I know. But what was important, was the young people I saw that day, spoke to that day and experienced that day. They were hit, not me. So I have never taken that quite seriously, the part about me. Other than the fact that I was here and was the last grown up from outside who spoke to them and was here. That makes an impression, and is what has been important to me, all of those we lost, not that I could have been hit directly,” she said.

A circle of steel, symbolising eternity, engraved with the name and age of almost all the victims, has been erected on the island as a memorial.

At his trial, Breivik said he was trying to protect Norway from Muslim immigration and multi-culturalism. He called the teenage activists on Utoya traitors to the Norwegian nation.

In 2012, Breivik was sentenced in 2012 to the maximum time in prison of 21 years when judges declared him sane enough to answer for the murder of 77 people.