Utoeya island: Scene of Norway's summer camp massacre
- 26 July 2011
- From the section Europe
Frode Berge, leader of the Labour Party in the region of Rogaland, Norway, writes about the importance of the party's summer camp held by his party every year on Utoeya island, scene of Anders Behring Breivik's killing spree. Mr Berge, 45, has previously served in several leading positions within the Labour Party and the AUF.
I am one of thousands of Labour Party officials who, over the years, has developed a deeply personal relationship with Utoeya.
For the last 30 years, I have been actively involved in the AUF (the Labour Party Youth) and in the party itself. Some of my best social and political memories date from being a teenager on Utoeya.
It is such a fantastic place! A tiny, picturesque island located in the Tyrifjorden fjord outside Oslo, it is actually owned by the AUF, received as a generous gift from the trade unions in Oslo after World War II.
Over the past five decades, Utoeya has become a precious and extremely valuable asset for the AUF and the Labour Party - physically, socially and politically.
Utoeya is quite simply beautiful - a perfect place for any summer camp, with tiny beaches, specially designed campsites, and separate facilities for families bringing their children with them.
Utoeya offers the perfect surroundings for teenagers who are seeking to combine their affection for politics with the classic activities of the traditional summer camp: bonfires, football, volleyball, swimming and fishing.
The smell of a bonfire combined with the sound of acoustic guitars, harmonicas, chatting, laughing and banter at 4 o'clock in the morning will stay with me, as immensely precious teenage memories, for the rest of my life.
Indeed, one of the most popular spots at Utoeya is the Love Path, located discreetly in the forest on the south of the island. Utoeya is the perfect place for a teenager to fall in love...
As well as being just a great place to spend your holiday, Utoeya has over the years developed into a place of significant national political importance.
The Labour Party has been a dominant political force in Norway for the last 60-70 years, and the AUF has been an extremely important base for recruiting and training our political leaders.
Utoeya has served as the main national platform for this recruiting and training.
Every summer, some 700-1,000 Labour youths from all over Norway have gathered for political debate and seminars covering topics like international solidarity, environmental issues, education, vocational training, and how to fight racism and xenophobia.
The AUF is a multi-cultural organisation, with a very clear stance against racism and xenophobia, and the island has always been a buzzing ethnic melting pot.
The AUF summer camp at Utoeya is the place our party leader and other prominent leaders always simply have to attend.
The fact that our present party leader and Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, has spent parts of his summer holiday on the island every year from the age of 14 clearly proves this point.
The summer camps at Utoeya always generate massive media coverage, and regularly set the national political agenda.
To see this beautiful and precious place being turned into a living hell, the worst political massacre in modern times, rips my heart out.
A staggering number of our remarkable teenagers have been brutally murdered, and an even higher number have been traumatised for life.
It further adds to the pain that this vicious attack had a distinct political and racist motivation.
The losses at Utoeya are greater than any of us can bear alone, and the response from the AUF is based on the best of our values of solidarity: we will live through this together. We will take Utoeya back.
The AUF and the Labour Party are far too robust, and our values are far too strong, to be crushed by this vicious act.