Prisoners of War
The Nazi concentration camps during World War 2 were a horrendous mass experiment in human will. Reports placed mortality in the camps between 20–50%. The overall death rate hides a most revealing statistic.
The vast majority of prisoners died soon. ~ Austrian-born American psychologist Bruno Bettelheim
Bettelheim estimated that 15% of new prisoners died during the first few months of being confined. They simply gave up hope.
Prisoners who came to believe that repeated statements of guards – that there was no hope for them, that they would never leave camp except as a corpse – were, in a literal sense, walking corpses. ~ Bruno Bettlelheim
Many died in Nazi concentration camps simply due to a loss of desire to live. ~ English psychologist John Leach
The US military documented very similar behavior among the more than 7,000 Americans taken prisoner during the Korean War. The Chinese – North Korea’s ally – subjected prisoners of war to extensive brainwashing programs, stripping away any sense of control these men might have held over their own fate. It was supremely effective.
It turned the American prisoners into the most docile uniformed men we have ever seen. ~ American psychologist William Mayer
Brainwashed prisoners rarely tried to escape, nor did they organize any resistance to their captors. Over 1/3rd of the brainwashed prisoners – fit young men – simply lost the will to live.
He would crawl off in a corner, refuse to eat, and – without having any disease whatsoever – simply die. ~ William Mayer
The mortality of North Korean War prisoners had a notable exception: Turks. Several hundred Turkish prisoners of war were held by the North Koreans under conditions nearly identical to those experienced by the Americans; yet they survived “almost to a man.”
Unlike the Americans, the Turks maintained a system of organization and discipline so resilient that it never allowed men to lose hope. A sick soldier would receive care from his comrades “with a tremendous degree of devotion.” In contrast, among the Americans, it was mostly every man for himself.
If a man started to get sick, the chances were that his fellow soldiers would, for all practical purposes, abandon him. ~ William Mayer