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One of Us

The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway

By Åsne Seierstad
  • Read in 18 minutes
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  • Contains 11 key ideas
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One of Us by Åsne Seierstad

One of Us (2015) tells the story of Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who killed 77 people on July 22, 2011. Beginning with Breivik’s personal life and detailing the development of his extremist political views and his planning of the massacre, these blinks give you an unflinching look into the mind of the man who carried out this devastating and senseless attack.

Key idea 1 of 11

Breivik’s childhood was unstable.

In 2011, Anders Behring Breivik shocked the world. He killed 77 people in a single day – the most horrific terrorist attack in Norwegian history. Why would anyone do this? Many have searched for answers by analyzing Breivik’s childhood.

Breivik’s early years were marked by instability and dysfunction. When Breivik was born, in 1979, his parents, Jens and Wenche Breivik, had only been together for a year, and when Breivik was six months old, his father was appointed as a counselor to the Norwegian Embassy in London, where the young family relocated from Oslo.

While her husband was busy working, Wenche mostly stayed home. It seemed to her that Jens was only interested in a well-groomed wife who could maintain a dust-free home. After six months of feeling unappreciated and lonely, Wenche chose to divorce her husband and move back to Oslo with her one-year-old son.

When Breivik was four, his mother no longer felt able to care for him and his younger sister. She asked for respite care, and the family was evaluated by psychologists. Experts concluded that the entire family was “affected by the mother’s poor psychological functioning,” and recommended that Anders be removed from the family, noting how “the mother is continually provoked by the boy and is locked in ambivalent positions, making it impossible [for him] to develop on his own terms.”

Despite this, the family did not act on this recommendation. An appointed home visitor concluded that the conditions were not adverse enough for Anders to be taken away, and Wenche maintained custody of her son.

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