10 Quotes from POW memoirs that can help restore faith in humanity

Countless thousands Prisoners of War (POW) die in prison camps, and even those fortunate enough to merge from their ordeal are never the same again. Many find a slither of solace in telling their story years after they become free, and these stories fills a historical gap in our understanding, while also commemorating and memorialising heir struggle and sacrifice.

But not only are these stories a testament to the brutality of war, they are also a beacon of hope. They remind us of the tenacity of the human spirit, our drive to go forward, to continue and carry on when all seems lost. They are stories of determination, hope and endurance that show us that if someone else can carry on through the worst circumstances then we can, too. They are inspirations.

This is a list of ten quotes from POW memoirs that can help restore faith in humanity, and shows that even in the worst circumstances, we can find some goodness.

1. “All men and women are capable of bravery. The pity is that nationalism divides us. Perhaps a true internationalism and cosmopolitanism will one day supersede our bickering and jealous nationalism. Perhaps it will not be too long before all of us on this small planet realise that we are one, and that our true nationality is Mankind.”
Tom Henling Wade, Prisoner of the Japanese: From Changi to Tokyo

2. “It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”
Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

3. “Yet a part of you still believes you can fight and survive no matter what your mind knows. It’s not so strange. Where there’s still life, there’s still hope. What happens is up to God.”
Louis Zamperini, Devil at My Heels


4. “During one train stop, I watched as another guard with a spirit of empathy, ran out into an apple orchard and picked apples. He carried his jacket like a bag and filled it with apples. The kind German came to our open train window and handed us each an apple. The juicy apple tasted so delicious. I so appreciated that apple and his unusual compassion.”
Oliver Omanson, Prisoner of War Number 21860: The World War II Memoirs of Oliver Omanson

5. “The prisoner, having reached the depth of his depression, gradually reawakens to the life around him. He licks himself and his wounded pride, opens his eyes, and finds that far away on the horizon there is still a ray of sunlight left.” 
P. H. Newman

6. “I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”
― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

7. “Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man’s soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it.”
Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption


8. “I was so burned and emaciated and ill that I staggered through the streets like a drunk. Some of the locals turned their backs on this terrible procession but others jeered and spat at us. I was past caring. There must have been at least a hundred of us, and then came an incredible and inspiring episode. As we stumbled along in the pouring rain someone started singing. It was ‘Singin’ in the Rain’, and slowly we all took up the song and joined in, singing a very rude version of the hit – complete with altered lyrics crudely deriding our Japanese captors. Even in this terrible condition and after all we had been through, my comrades, ravaged by exposure, naked and in slavery, were defiant, their spirits unbroken.”
Alistair Urquhart, The Forgotten Highlander: My Incredible Story of Survival During the War in the Far East

9. “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
During the life of any heart this line keeps changing place; sometimes it is squeezed one way by exuberant evil and sometimes it shifts to allow enough space for good to flourish. One and the same human being is, at various ages, under various circumstances, a totally different human being. At times he is close to being a devil, at times to sainthood. But his name doesn’t change, and to that name we ascribe the whole lot, good and evil.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, Books I-II

10. “Life is worth living and no matter what it throws at you it is important to keep your eyes on the prize of the happiness that will come. Even when the Death Railway reduced us to little more than animals, humanity in the shape of our saintly medical officers triumphed over barbarism.
Remember, while it always seems darkest before the dawn, perseverance pays off and the good times will return.”
― Alistair Urquhart, The Forgotten Highlander: My Incredible Story of Survival During the War in the Far East 



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