Without dignity, identity is erased. In its absence, men are defined not by themselves, but by their captors and the circumstances in which they are forced to live.
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.
Because Ofuna was kept secret from the outside world, the Japanese operated with an absolutely free hand. The men in Ofuna, said the Japanese, weren’t POWs; they were “unarmed combatants” at war against Japan and, as such, didn’t have the rights that international law accorded POWs. In fact, they had no rights at all. If captives “confessed their crimes against Japan,” they’d be treated “as well as regulations permit.” Over the course of the war, some one thousand Allied captives would be hauled into Ofuna, and many would be held there for years.