German honored for saving lives in Norway attack | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 04.10.2011
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German honored for saving lives in Norway attack

The German president has given the country's highest award of service to Marcel Gleffe, a 32-year-old roofer who saved at least 20 people from the shooting in Norway in July.

People sit at a memorial to the victims

A total of 77 people died in the attacks on Utoya and Oslo

A German roofer who saved at least 20 youths from the massacre on the Norwegian island of Utoya was honored with Germany's highest award of service in Berlin on Tuesday.

In a ceremony at Bellevue Palace, 32-year-old Marcel Gleffe received the Federal Cross of Merit from President Christian Wulff.

"I'm very proud," Gleffe said at the end of the ceremony. "There can be no greater honor for me."

Gleffe, a corporal in the reserve armed forces, has already been honored with the golden badge of honor by the Association of German Reservists and the Golden Hen media award.

President Wulff said Gleffe's actions "add something comforting and encouraging" to the tragedy.

Rescue operation

In 2008, Gleffe moved from his home of Teterow, in northeastern Germany, to Norway, where he found work as a roofer. At the time of the massacre on July 22, he was vacationing on Tyrifjord, the lake in which Utoya island is located.


Gleffe received the prize from President Christian

He was on the shores of the lake when he heard the shots, first thinking they were fireworks on the island. He said once he saw people jumping into the water, he realized "someone was shooting, and that someone had to bring these people out of the water."

Gleffe then drove his boat 20 to 30 meters (yards) from the island and back four times, picking up five to eight youths each trip and bringing them to safety. His boat was shot by the attacker, Anders Breivik, but Gleffe said his time in the German military had taught him how to stay calm and focused in difficult situations.

Sixty-nine people were killed in the shooting on Utoya, where the Norwegian Labor Party was hosting a youth camp. Eight others were killed shortly before in a bombing at a government building in Oslo.

Breivik, a right-wing extremist who has railed against multiculturalism and Islam in online rants, has admitted to the attacks and is being held in solitary confinement.

Germany's Order of Merit was established in 1951 by then-President Theodor Heuss. It can be awarded to Germans and foreigners for political, economic, social or intellectual achievements, and for "all kinds of outstanding services to the nation."

Author: Andrew Bowen (dpa, dapd)
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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