Camp Z30-D: The Survivors

Hung Huy Nguyen has a simple, final thought about his 13 years in prison.

“You must not forget, because then you can make the future better,” he says. “If you remember us, our souls will not die in vain.”

When he says this, he speaks to his children and grandchildren. But, just as important, he delivers this message to anyone who will listen. Hung, the former colonel, still honors his parents' admonition: “Live to serve others.”

Dozens of former prisoners interviewed for this project echoed Hung's words, saying that if there is any good to come out of Vietnam's re-education effort, it is that people learn never to repeat the intolerance that allowed the prisons to be built.

Thanh Thuy Nguyen, the former major general, says, “I just want people to remember that I made it. I didn't give up on hope.”

Resistance, family, hope, the former prisoners said, were the values that helped them make it through each day. But respect for others -- and forgiveness -- were the lessons that allowed them to endure and carve new lives in a new world.

Trach Duc Nguyen, for example, couldn't push thoughts of revenge out of his mind while in jail. Yet during his escape, the poet released a boy who would later turn him in.

“I couldn't kill another human being,” Trach says. “That would make me just as evil as my captors. Then I wouldn't have learned anything from Camp Z30-D.”

Hong Nga, who conceived her two sons in her husband's prison, says, ``Violence only brings horror and agony.

“It is love that heals and unites.”