Ernest Gordan relates a story from the book "To End All Wars" about sacrifice that totally transformed the prison camp he was in during WW II.

The human instinct of survival is such that prisoners, in general, fight for survival at the expense of others.

A guard at Gordon's prison camp discovered that a shovel was missing.

When no one confessed to the theft, the angry guard threatened to kill all the prisoners. He was about to shoot the first man in the line when one prisoner stepped out and took responsibility for the missing shovel. The guard killed him instantly.

That evening, when the work crew made the inventory of the tools, they discovered that a mistake had been made: no shovel was missing. The prisoners realized that their friend, who had voluntarily taken responsibility for the "stolen" shovel, had indeed given his life as a "ransom" for them all. One innocent prisoner was willing to die so that the guard would not kill all the other innocent prisoners.

Through the voluntary sacrifice of this one prisoner, God caused a change in the attitudes of the other prisoners such that they began to look out for each other, and when liberation came, they treated their cruel guards with kindness and not revenge.  

--Ernest Gordon


Ernest Gordon, author of "To End All Wars", was dean of the Princeton chapel from 1955 to 1981.

Author information was updated as of the article's post date. Author profiles may not reflect author's current employment or location.

Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa ( via Flickr. Used by permission.

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