Honoring Roddie Edmonds, Righteous Among Nations

This non-Jew saved 200 Jewish POW during WWII

Many accounts of bravery have emerged among the many thousands of American prisoners of war during World War II in the Pacific and European Theatres.

September 20 is POW/MIA Recognition Day, a day worth remembering the actions of Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds of Knoxville, Tennessee. Edmonds, along with others of the 422nd Infantry Regiment, was forced to surrender to an overwhelming force of Germans during the Battle of the Bulge, toward the end of the war in Europe.

As was the custom, officers went to one camp while the enlisted men went to another, Stalag IXA, located near Ziegenhain, Germany.

Jewish-American soldiers had been warned to throw their ID tags away, so they could not be singled out by the Jew-hating Nazis. In violation of the Geneva Convention, the Nazis were sending those soldiers to slave-labor camps where chances of survival were minimal.

As the highest-ranking enlisted man, Edmonds was in charge of all 1,275 prisoners — 200 of whom were Jews — whose well-being he considered his responsibility. After they arrived in the bitter cold, the Nazi commandant ordered Edmonds to identify all the Jews in his group, and to have them in formation the next morning. Instead, Edmonds ordered all 1,275 men to assemble outside their barracks, which they did. Outraged, the Nazi commandant drew his pistol, pointing it at Edmonds, demanding that he identify the Jews.

“We are all Jews here,” Edmonds said. “If you want to shoot Jews, you must shoot everyone.”

He warned the commandant that, with the war ending, if the prisoners were harmed, he would be hunted down and tried as a war criminal. The commandant holstered his gun and walked away.

Edmonds, who also served in the Korean War, never received official recognition saving the Jewish soldiers. It was only after his death in 1985, when his wife gave Edmonds’ two diaries to his son, a Baptist minister, that Edmonds’ bravery became known to his own family.

In 2015, Yad VaShem named Roddie Edmonds a Righteous Among the Nations.

Unfortunately, an attempt to confer the Congressional Medal of Honor has stalled because no battle had been fought nor blood shed in his efforts. Yet, with or without a medal, Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds will always be remembered as a non-Jewish, Jewish American Hero.

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