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Today's concentration camps stretch from Siberia to Eire, from Argentina to India. Until the turn of the century, the lot of the POW was governed by increasingly civilized rules, culminating in the edicts of the Hague Convention (1907). But ideological wars aim at annihilation, and a new barbarity has brought morbid measures ""designed to pain, degrade and destroy human beings."" Barker's is the first popular book ever to survey the complete past and present status of the world's POWs. During WW II the Allies belatedly found that the Japanese and Russians were totally unconcerned about the fate of their own troops in Allied POW camps, and so the reciprocity of humane treatment on both sides became less than a fiction. Barker covers Old World and biblical practices, the Middle Ages, the Napoleonic wars, our own Revolutionary and Civil Wars, both World Wars, Korea and Vier Nam. He describes the various mental states of POWs during capture, the first ordeal of marching to, and then adjusting to, the place of detention, interrogation (and brainwashing), daily life behind barbed wire, work details, the indifference to or consolations of religion, the irritations of guards and discipline including the special harshness of Oriental guards, various entertainments and amateur dramatics, sex, the immense limitations on escape in a foreign country (and the laughable glamorization of tunneling out in films), the weird shock of freedom and catching up with a world that passed you by. He also suggests that the U.S. Code of Conduct is the best survival guide for POWs. Originality of approach (the constant telescoping of one camp into another) gives breadth and freshness to an otherwise depressing subject.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1975
Publisher: Universe Books