Interview mit Julia Eikeland

Julia Eikeland, AUF Norwegen mit Liz und Marius von SJD – Die Falken

Anmerkung der Redaktion: Die Verschriftlichung des Interviews ist eine Lesefassung in der Wortwiederholungen und Füllwörter zum Teil entfernt worden sind. Inhaltlich wurde das Interview nicht verändert. 

Interview zum Anhören

Liz: We’re going to talk about the 22nd of July 2011, and we’re going to start with some questions concerning your personal experience. And you were eight years old in 2011, right?

Julia: In 2011, I was 11.

Liz: 11 Yes, already. OK, so would you mind telling us a little bit about what you were doing on the 22nd of July in 2011 and what you experienced that day?

Julia: Yes. So I was actually 11 since it was July. It was summer vacation in Norway, so I was on my summer vacation in Germany actually, and I remember my mom told me we were just chilling in our apartment and it was a hot and sunny day. And she told me that a bomb had gone off  in Oslo. And I  remember that I was really shocked and it went all over the media and you could see a lot of things. And I read a lot about things that were happening, but I didn’t quite understand what was going on. And I was very young. I was only 11 years old, so I didn’t really understand what was going on. So at the time, I didn’t understand that it was a political attack. I just thought it was a completely random shooting and like, maybe war or just some crazy person just shooting everywhere. So at first when I got home, I began to understand more, and people also told me more about what’s really what’s going on. But it was really strange when I came home from the vacation to just see how Norway has changed in only a few weeks and how different everything was. And Stavanger, the town where I come from, everyone was really down and everyone was very upset and things were very different. And of course, when you’re only 11 years old, it’s really hard to understand what’s really going on.

Liz: And when you came back to school after summer, how was it discussed there? The attacks?

Julia: It was discussed a bit because everyone knew that something big had happened and we didn’t know that we had to speak about it. So I learned a little bit about what was going on, but not that much as I remember. As I said, I was very young in 2011, so it’s not everything that I quite remember, but I can remember that I didn’t learn so much about it. Fortunately, later in the years, it’s been more incorporated in the school and more, and it’s been a more important theme in the school. And many kids today learn about the attack and the thoughts behind it. But when I got to school, we spoke a bit about things like, Oh, it was a shooting in Oslo and on Utøya, but we didn’t really speak so much about what was the impact of the attack. Was it like an attack on social democracy? Was it an attack on Norway? We just learned that it wasn’t just like a shooting, but we learned more in the later years. I really understand now what really was going on.

Liz: And later you joined the AUF. When and why did you join the AUF?

Julia: Yes. So I started in AUF when I was around 15 years old, so I believe it was in 2015, 2016 at that time. So that was like four or five years after 2011 and the terror attack. So I started to get involved in my local team here in my town where I come from, Stavanger. And so I started actually because I had one thing that I really, really hated and that was private schools. And I really didn’t like them. So I found AUF and I thought, Oh, that would be a great place where I can discuss politics. And also at the time, I was really a big fan of the prime minister at that time, which was from the Labor Party, Jens Stoltenberg. And I thought he was really nice and cool and did a great job for Norway. So that combined my hate for private schools and my fan obsession with him made me want to join the AUF. And now I have been active for around five to six years and with each day  passing by I have really even become more engaged actually, and I have become more motivated to continue because there is a good unity and a lot of learning and you really get a lot of friends. So I found AUF as a really, really good place to learn about politics, but also meet new people and to get to do a lot of cool stuff.

Marius: Did you consider the terror attacks when you joined the AUF. So it had an impact for you joining the AUF?

Julia: At the time I didn’t really think about it because I know a lot of people that got in the AUF in  2012 and  2013. They got in because of the terror attack, and they did understand the importance of democracy and youth politics. But it was like four or five years after I really got engaged. So I really didn’t think that much about it until I started. It was when  I started in AUF I really understood what AUF had been going through the last years and really how unique that organization is. And it really got me more interested in right-wing terrorism. And 22nd of July has been a really big theme in AUF. So we talk very much about it. So. It’s really an open theme, so when I started, I knew most of the basic stuff and I’ve seen a lot of videos and a lot of things that people have done. When I started in the organization, I really really understand why do we have to take the fight against right-wing terrorism and why it is it is supporting to fight against it and what can we do in the AUF. So I believe that my engagement in AUF made me more and more engaged in the fight against right-wing terrorism. And also when I visited Utøya for the first time and all the other times, it really got me to see the importance and what a big impact AUF can make in in the fight against right-wing terrorism.

Marius: Yeah, I’d like to go a bit more in this topic and ask the question how the people in the AUF are dealing with the experience of the terror attack. Maybe at first on an individual level?

Julia: Yeah. I can start by saying that it is very, very different from each person that was there the  22nd of July. Each people or each individual has their own history and experience. And I didn’t experience it myself fortunately and so I can only describe how it must have been for them. Some of them wanted to continue in AUF and wanted to continue to be in political engagement. Some people could make it, but others thought it was so difficult and so hard that they wanted to step away from politics. They didn’t want to be on Utøya or get involved in politics again because they were so traumatized and everything was so hard, which is very, very understandable. And of course, the happening had a very big impact on AUF in the years after the terror attack. I like everything I have been told. It was very hard because the organization couldn’t be as normal. They couldn’t discuss normal political things. They were using all their time on building up their organization because it was very difficult to run an organization that was completely destroyed in many ways. Because you have lost a lot of members, you lost a lot of the leaders in the counties and stuff like that, and many had a lot of trauma and they were very traumatized. But AUF got up again, and they used so much time to build up AUF to take Utøya back. And many of the members continued to get involved and they didn’t want to let the heat when they did want to win themself. So I’m very proud of what AUF did, and I’m really, really honored to be a part of an organization that has built themselves so well up after everything that’s happened, that’s it.

Marius: Yeah, I also think that it’s very strong that you were hit in the heart and you managed to get out of it. Can you tell us how does the organization on a higher organizational level deal with this experience? Do you have a collective commemoration to mention for example you visit from time to time or very often visit Utøya? Can you tell us something about that?

Julia: Yes. As I mentioned earlier, we work a lot with the  22nd of July in our organization. Now in AUF we have our own like 22nd of July selection of people in our organization that is working with the topics. But we also visit Utøya a lot of times because we use it for our summer camps and basic things like seminars. But we also use Utøya for special events, for example every year we have something called the Utøya conference. And in that conference, it is a weekend where we only learn about right-wing terrorism and we speak about 22 of July and the impact it had on Norway and and our organization. So we really do speak a lot about it, and I feel like it is very easy in AUF to speak about 22nd of July because for us, it is very, very important that it’s not only the people who were there, it’s not only their history, but it’s also our organization because everyone who is a part of a AUF, they’re a part of the history of 22nd of July. And that’s the main reason why we also want everyone to feel that they can learn a lot about it and that they feel like they belong to the history and to the island and to everything that happened. So for a short conclusion, yes, we speak a lot about it. We learn about it and our counties and our local local groups are working a lot with it. So not only in our yearly meetings, when we are in our summer camps, it’s always something that is relatae to the 22nd of July and right-wing terrorism as a theme so we are always reminded. We definitely can speak about it and we have a few people now in our organization that were on Utøya on 22nd of July. But most, like 95 percent of our active members, didn’ t were there. So that means that AUF has an even bigger job to continue to tell the story and to make everyone take the fight because it is very bad if we end up having members who don’t know about the date and if it feels scary to talk about something like that. So it’s very important for us.

Liz: Do you know how the count of members in AUF has changed since then?

Julia: Do you mean like the amounts? Yeah. So after 2011 we got a lot of new members but not only in AUF. After 2011, a lot of people in Norway wanted to get involved in youth politics, like more in the socialists, more in the labor, more like in every party. People who were engaged got up. And of course, in AUF, we got a lot of new members because everyone understood the impact that the youth organizations had on society and people really felt the importance of engaging themselves in politics. But it has been a few years now and people are maybe starting to forget a bit more. And we can see that the people who want to get into youth politics are going down. So that’s very sad. Because you had so many people in 2011 that were like, “Oh, I’m going to get in and join the democracy”. But now it really has faded off. So I hope that we can make people want to join again and get people to understand. Of course, we have a lot of members in AUF and still a lot of people who want to join. But I really want even more youth to be a part of democracy and to understand that we can not take democracy for granted. It’s not everyone who wants democracy to be, so we need to stand up for it.

Liz: Would you tell us something about the measures that  AUF has taken after the attacks concerning security or maybe concerning the need for safety that people might have had? Like what you’re doing right now Yeah, to protect the AUF against something happening, something like this happening again.

Julia: That’s a good question. In our summer camps, for example, we always have the police on the island and we really are protected. We can say that the protection around that date (22nd of July)  wasn’t good enough and we didn’t have a lot of people to protect. A very, very important topic for AUF is that the police and everything wasn’t good enough on that date. But some of the most important things we can do is not only to get better security but  to fight against very scary attitudes and thoughts that is located in our society because that is more scary because of course we can always get better securities. But really, it shouldn’t be necessary for an organization to have a lot of police and a lot of things because you’re scared that someone is going to kill you or someone is going to do something. The most important we can do is to take away really those thoughts that are living in our society and to educate people and to make them aware. So, yeah, that’s really important. But of course, we really take security as a very big topic for us and we really want to feel that everyone that is joining AUF should not be scared and should not feel like they can’t come to Utøya or to anything. It’s safe to join the AUF and that’s something that we think it’s very important.

Marius: And I guess Utøya didn’t just have an impact on AUF, but also, like you’re very connected to the Labor Party. Can you tell us something about what impact the terror attacks had on the politics of the Labour Party?

Julia: Of course, there has been a big impact on both AUF and the Labour Party because it was not only on Utøya, but it was also in the government’s quarter in Oslo, where a lot of people from the Labour Party worked. And also AUF is their youth organization. So there were a lot of the upcoming politicians in AUF who were going in the Labour Party and many people in the Labor Party knew many people in AUF who were there and were killed.  We’re all in the same party. So of course, it had a big, big, big impact on the Labour Party. And it was really hard for the Labour Party because at that time the Labour Party was ruling Norway and there was so much that they needed to do. It was election that year. And you know, you need to continue to rule a country, even though big things like that happened. So I believe it was very, very hard to rule the country and to do everything that needs to be done on a day to day basis and still to work and to kind of understand everything that just happened and not be traumatized. Yeah. So I think it was very, very hard for the Labour Party as well. And something that happened a lot with the Labour Party is when they try to speak about something, for example, immigrants and speaking about right-wing terrorism and stuff like that. Some people often are commenting that we are using that 22nd of July card. You can say that you can’t mention 22nd of July when you’re talking about politics and stuff like that. And for the Labour Party, it’s very, very hard because often when they say oh, like, the representative from this party can say it but from the Labour party know what can happen if we have those thoughts. They often mention, ‘Oh, you can’t say that  just because you had the 22nd of July’. And that’s really, really bad, because the 22nd of July really, really showed what hate can do, and we need to speak about it more, not less. But when the Labour Party mentioned it only like in that time, but now as well, they really did meet a lot of hate and a lot of mean comments. So it has been very, very hard.

Marius: And could you tell us something about the overall political climate, do the other parties realize the political background of this terror attack, that it was a right-wing terror attack? Or do they talk about it as an individual act of an insane person?

Julia: I can say that right after the terror attack, every party in Norway was really surrounded together and was like, ‘Today we’re all from AUF, today we stay together and we really understand what happened and we are all together’. But as the years went by, things really have changed a bit and we have some parties that are really understanding and it is very clear that this was a terror attack on the Labour Party, but some people and some parties have been really bad as well. They don’t mention 22nd of July as much as we would like to as a topic. They don’t want to say that it was an attack on the Labour Party. Some think it was of course an attack on our democracy. But it was also an attack on our organization and our party. And that’s something that I want everyone to understand because it’s been a very hard time for the Labour Party to get people to understand. And we can also tell that politicians from other parties are saying that the Labour Party is using the 22nd of July card all the time. They don’t understand really the big impact of the date. But now it is the 10th anniversary this year, so you can tell that’s 22nd of July is a much more discussed topic, and it’s very, very great to see that a lot of the parties are beginning to understand more and are beginning to discuss the theme. Because at a time AUF and the Labour Party felt very alone in the fight against right-wing terrorism and the fight against the ideology behin the 22nd of July. But now we can finally see that more people are involving themselves in the fight, and a lot of the parties are doing a better job than they did earlier. So that’s good for us.

Liz: And concerning the polarization between right-wing people and left-wing people or youth organizations increasing. Are they getting more apart more and more or are they moving closer to something that is more in the middle?

Julia: Yeah. So I kind of feel like, you know, after 22nd of July, I felt like, OK, we were moving a bit more together because we saw that we actually agree on a lot of things. And we met. We have some of our bigger topics, it’s like common for all the parties. But of course, you can tell in the later years that the parties are very, very different. And I mean, also that 22nd of July has also joined to polarize a bit more because we could see, for example, like the most right party in Norway, they’re kind of like extreme, not super extreme, but they are the most right party we have. They have said a lot of things that is connected to the 22nd of July. That is very awful. And they’re like big politicians who have said a lot of things that is really, really unacceptable things. For example, our minister from that party, said that the Labour Party wanted to put terrorists‘ security before the people’s security and that it would be more important for us. And that was extremely hard to take because that is really just awful. So. And stuff like that has happened several times, and I believe that  things like that have joined to polarize the politics even more, because we understood, OK, really there is really a big difference. And we saw people that really, really took in a settlement with the things and parties that really didn’t do it. And people said a lot of things that really was inappropriate. So I would say that it got more polarized after a while.

Liz: And how do you experience how the media is sanitizing the attacks today, like especially in the year when it’s the 10th anniversary?

Julia: Hmm. So because it is a 10th year anniversary, of course we are talking more about it. And I believe that the media this year has been much better and they want to talk more about it because we really want to put the topic on the agenda because we have to make the people aware that this was not a random attack. In the start, the media and people were talking like, ‘Oh, 22nd of July, it is. It’s a national disaster. It’s like something that just happened. It was a crazy man’. It was just something that it’s not like, ‘Oh, things like that can’t happen in Norway’. This was extreme, but this was not a random attack. It was a political attack in which people were killed on the basis of what they believed in. So we must work together in Norway so that attitudes like this don’t exist any more in our society. I believe that media has a big role in their impact of what people are thinking. Of course, we in the Labour Party and in AUF we really want people to discuss. We don’t have the answer of what can we do to fight right-wing terrorism and to not make 22nd of July happen again. Of course we have our answers, but we don’t have – like maybe a lot of other parties and people have –  a lot of good impact and other other solutions and other things that we can do. We want people to join the debate and to say what they feel and to come up with good arguments and stuff. But it is a difference between that and the people that really are just saying things that is crazy and that’s personal and things like that the AUF is lying about things that’s happened. And that the Labour Party and AUF must take the blame themselves for what’s happened because that isn’t a good way of discussing it because we want people to join the discussion. We want the other parties to join a discussion, but we want to do it in a way that it’s good and that is appropriate.

Liz: I was wondering if the attacks have had an impact on the culture of Norway. Maybe even like concerning music or art?

Julia: Hmm, yeah. So after 22nd of July,  it was not made so much new songs, but some of the songs that was like, for example, in the concerts and stuff. After 22nd of July, we had some songs that was later connected to the 22nd of July. So we have some songs that people connect with 22nd of July, even though they maybe were made before. But now they’re kind of like 22nd of July songs. It was also written a lot of poems and of course, some books. But like this tenth year anniversary, so many books that is coming out in 2021. The AUF for example, wrote their own book this year that we got out now, and I believe in May. So it’s not a long time ago and very, very many people have launched their own books but of course, it had an impact on our culture and changed a lot of things. And we get some songs that were really connected to the day and and some really good books and documentaries as well. Of course, we have some good documentaries and we have several movies and we have a movie going in the cinema right now. Netflix also made an own movie. We have some other movies. So there were also other ways that people could learn about what’s happened and yes, other ways than just regular ways.

Liz: Do you know some of the names of the songs that you connect to the 22nd of July?

Julia: Yes, we have this. It’s called “Til Ungdommen” [von mehreren Personen musikalisch interpretiertes Anti-Kriegs Gedicht von Nordahl Grieg, Anm. der Redaktion] so to translate it, it’s called to their youth. So it wasn’t made for the date, but after the date, it was used for that cause. And we also have this song called “Mitt Lille Land” [Interpretin: Maria Mena, Anm. der Redaktion], which means my little country. So that was kind of a symbol that in our little country things like that can happen. And it was really that song, that means a lot for people today and that has a big meaning.

Marius: Would you say that the adaptations in the movie do a good job adapting to the theme?

Julia: I believe. And like from my personal view, I think that the movies are very different. Some movies and some documentaries are better than others. For example, in the US, they made this Netflix film, and I thought it was OK, but  it was very like extreme. It’s really not the same that I felt when I watched the Norwegian one. It was much more what I have heard that it was like. For example, in one movie that went to the cinema for a couple of years ago, the whole movie was about the viewer followed one person who got attacked on Utøya and you followed every minute she was there and what she did on the island. And of course, that was really, really hard, but also a very interesting and important movie to watch because you really, really got to feel almost like the crazy thing that was going on in the island. But they also made, for example a serie where the topic was much more about what the society did when this happened. So what the media did and for example, after when the attack happened, everyone suggested that this was some Muslims and ISIS and something that was like a terror attack from a Non-Norwegian and everyone was like, really? Yeah. But later we found out that it’s a Norwegian christian guy that is doing this. And you can see in the series the reaction and you can see how how different groups are reacting and and really the the chaotic thing that was going on and how the media wrote about it. So there are  very, very different movies. The movie that came out about AUF came out before it’s in the cinema now. You can follow AUF and four persons from AUF throughout three years and you follow people and they tell a lot about what impact the date has on them today and why some of them wanted to continue politics, and some of them thought it was more difficult. So yeah, I believe that some are better than others, but that’s my personal view. I believe it’s very important that people make movies and series so that we can understand even more and to make the theme a big topic.

Marius: Regarding the presentations in the movies, you just said that some do more like fit what you were told what happened. And can you tell us how present are the survivors of the right-wing terror attack and what role do they play in AUF or in the Norwegian society? Are other people openly speaking about what they have experienced?

Julia: Yes, that’s actually a really, really good question, because you have those people that didn’t want to do politics anymore and maybe find it more hard to speak about 22nd of July. And I really haven’t spoke to everyone about 22nd of July, but the people that experienced 22nd of July that still are active in our organization or was active for not so many years ago, they’re really, really open about what happened. Because, for example, in every conference or meeting we have and we speak about 22nd of July, they always say, for example, that you can ask anything. There’s nothing that I can’t answer. I have got every question before, and I want you guys to feel that you can ask anything because it was our organization that was under attack. And we’re all the same organization. So I believe that people that experience the right-wing terrorism themselves, they they really speak a lot about it on a personal level, but also on a more political level in the media. But I know that many people that speak a lot about right-wing terrorism and especially in AUF, feel like they stand alone and that they need to take the fight alone. And so some of the things that AUF is doing now is to get other parties to involve more, to get more youth parties, for example, to speak more about the 22nd of July and to speak more about right-wing terrorism. So because one thing is what you do is to be open about on a personal level. And AUF is also open on a bigger level. But we can’t be open alone. We need people to to join in and to speak about it and to to join the discussion and to really stick together and to to get solutions and things that we can do to to fight the right-wing terrorism.

Marius: Thank you. We’re coming to the last three, two, three questions now. And earlier you mentioned you took back Utøya and that the AUF came back and took it back from the attack. And I wanted to ask,  has Utøya become a symbol in some kind and what kind of symbol?

Julia: So after the time of 22nd of July, it was very hard to know if the AUF should take it back there or if they should not. So a lot of people wanted not to take it back. But at the end of the day, they took it back. And in 2015, four years after the attack, we had our first summer camp. And many people now, like in 2011, they didn’t want to take the island back. But now they are very happy that they did it because it’s a symbol that love wins over hate. And that a man came to take away our island because if we didn’t take the island back that he would win, then he would manage the thing that he wanted. And the thing that he wanted was that AUF should not exist anymore. It [AUF, Anm. der Redaktion] should be destroyed and not to use Utøya. But when we come back to Utøya and and we do the things that we did before and will use the island to create politics and to be a youth organization, it shows that we are stronger than him and we are stronger than the right-wing thoughts and that we really are are winning at the end of the day. I believe that it’s a very, very important decision for AUF and a very important symbol. But it really hasn’t been easy, and many people may think that it was a bad idea. Some people may think today it is as well, but at the end of the day, I think it’s very important for AUF and a great symbol of how strong we actually are.

Liz: Would you describe how the island looks today. Maybe how the memorial looks like?

Julia: Yes, I do. I don’t know how everything is in English, but I can try to do my best because the island is actually a little island. But when I was on Utøya for the first time, it was actually quite more big than I than I thought. So we have this main house,  after 22nd of July they decided to ruin something and to build up something new and some things they  wanted to destroy. So we have, for example, this main house that is new. We have the cafeteria, we have some conference rooms, but we also have a lot of sleeping places and cabins and stuff around the island. But we also have memorial settlements around the island. So we have –  I don’t think it’s called like this in English – but I think it’s the friend’s house in Norwegian. It’ s called Hegnhuset. So it’s this large building where you can go inside and it’s kind of a museum with pictures from the date and you can see messages between people that were on the island and their parents, for example. But you can like in the building – it’s hard to explain –  but the old place is in the new one. So they have been like the old place in the new one. So you can go actually and see some of the rooms where people were killed. So in the walls, you can see it. For example, shooting marks and if you go in the toilets, you can see where people were hiding and stuff. So of course, the places there, we don’t use them, but you can go and look in the building. So it’s very, very nice. And we also have this, it’s like a big lighting crown. That’s it. That is on the island that is really, really beautiful, that has every name. And they have 69 names of the people who were killed on Utøya on the crown. So when it’s on, the whole crowd is lightning and you can put flowers in it and you can go and look. And just the crown is like in a silent place on Utøya and you can just go there and look and just to think. And it’s very nice. So I believe what is nice for the place on Utøya is that you have this memorial and things that it’s very beautiful and sad but important to look at. But you also have this, you have like the football, you can play football, you can play volleyball, you can go and eat ice cream in the store. You can go and have fun with your friends in the house and stuff like that. So it really is a place for both learning and getting to get new friends and fun stuff, but also a place for you to memorize and to think of the people that we lost.

Liz: Thank you so much. Hopefully, we can come to visit you on Utøya one day with the falcons.

Julia: Yes, that will be great.

Liz: You guys know anything else that you would really like to tell us, that you would like to be part of the memorial that we’re building up in Berlin?

Julia: I feel like I got to answer a lot of things. But I really want to say that until this day Utøya is really my favorite place to be. And I know that that’s the case for very many people in the AUF and it’s really when I go to there, I really feel like it  is my home and this is the home of the organization and it’s a place for learning and engagement and new friendships. So of course, everyone must know that the island has its own history and a story that we can never forget. But AUF has done such a good job to take the island back and to make the island beautiful again, so that’s really important for me to say.