Norway Massacre: A Look Back at the Hate Crime Spree That Left 77 People Dead

July 22, 2021Lauren Coontz
Anders Behring Breivik stands in court in Oslo, Norway, on appeal of his prison sentence as “inhumane.” Photo courtesy of Facebook user SAT.1 Nachrichten.

Anders Behring Breivik stands in court in Oslo, Norway, on appeal of his prison sentence as “inhumane.” Photo courtesy of Facebook user SAT.1 Nachrichten.

Thursday marks the 10-year anniversary of one of history’s most harrowing hate crimes — the massacre in Norway. In multiple acts of violence on July 22, 2011, Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people, marking Norway’s worst atrocity since World War II.

A decade later, the extremist undercurrents that spawned the worst mass killing by a lone gunman in modern history remain a global issue — with repercussions in the United States. According to The Associated Press, hate crimes in the United States have increased significantly — law enforcement data indicate 2019 had the highest hate crime rate of the last decade. 

Smoke rises over Oslo, Norway, after a 950-kilogram bomb hidden in a van killed eight outside the government square on July 22, 2011. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Breivik published a large manifesto at 2:09 p.m. on July 22, 2011. He sent the document to more than 1,000 people, including politicians, political parties, newspaper organizations, and journalists. The rambling declaration was titled 2083: A European Declaration of Independence. Later, Breivik admitted his writing was mostly plagiarized from other authors.

In some 1,500 pages, Breivik targeted his ire on feminists, Muslims, Marxist and multiculturalist regimes, America, Western media, and the “Islamization” of Europe.  

At 3:25 p.m., Breivik detonated a 950-kilogram (2,094-pound) ANFO bomb — made with ammonium nitrate/fuel oil — outside the government district in Norway’s capital city of Oslo, killing eight adults and injuring more than 200 people. 


Breivik left the van packed with the highly explosive ANFO outside the offices of Norway’s prime minister and directly left for Utøya Island. The blast was so large, it launched the van 12 meters away. Photo from Naerings Johannesen, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It was only the beginning of one of the darkest days in Norwegian history. 

Breivik then traveled to a youth camp on Utøya Island. He was dressed as a police officer and carried a suitcase full of weapons. At the camp, the lone gunman killed the guard and a camp counselor and proceeded to stalk and hunt the young campers. During his trial, Breivik expressed regret that he could not murder all the teens and young adults.

After killing 69 people there, all of them youth camp attendees or staff, Breivik surrendered peacefully to police. His youngest victim was 14 years old. The Oslo police came under heavy scrutiny over the incident, as the force never deployed its helicopter team — because they were on vacation. A police boat was overloaded and stalled, further delaying the law enforcement response.

Breivik had been planning his assault for a long time. His preparations included a disguise as a police officer. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

With 77 total fatalities, Norway grieved for the victims alongside support sent from all over the world. Strangely, Breivik and the public both sought his guilty verdict in court.

Breivik saw himself as a martyr for his far-right cause, claiming he would appeal every verdict that declared him insane. Many prosecutors had hoped that an insanity plea would invalidate Breivik’s pro-Zionist and anti-Muslim ideology. A guilty verdict, along with a determination that he was sane to stand trial, gave Breivik the validation he sought. 

He was sentenced to solitary confinement in a three-room prison cell for 21 years. The murderer of 77 people has since enjoyed access to computer games and a gym. However, a Norwegian penal clause calls Breivik’s sentence “protective confinement,” meaning he will probably never be released. 

While in prison, Breivik has claimed that the conditions of his confinement violate his rights. He also claimed he should get a medal of honor

Read Next: 50 Years Later, Have We Learned Any Lessons From the Pentagon Papers Leak?

Lauren Coontz
Lauren Coontz

Lauren Coontz is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. Beaches are preferred, but Lauren calls the Rocky Mountains of Utah home. You can usually find her in an art museum, at an archaeology site, or checking out local nightlife like drag shows and cocktail bars (gin is key). A student of history, Lauren is an Army veteran who worked all over the world and loves to travel to see the old stuff the history books only give a sentence to. She likes medium roast coffee and sometimes, like a sinner, adds sweet cream to it.

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