Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds: Faith, Family, Friends, Freedom

This short video encapsulates the incredibly extraordinary actions of a non-Jewish American prisoner of war in defending fellow Jewish soldiers from an almost certain death on a cold January day back in the Second World War.

Master Sergeant Rodrick “Roddie” Waring Edmonds hailed from the beautiful mountains of northern Tennessee, and nobly served in the 106th Infantry Division during the Second World War where he was captured by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge and imprisoned at the Stalag IX prisoner of war camp near Ziegenhain, Germany.

It was a standard operating procedure for captured Jewish soldiers to have their dog tags confiscated, and those Jewish soldiers who did not surrender their tags upon request faced extra harsh treatment if not death for their noncompliance. One bitterly cold day in the camp, Edmonds was directed by a Nazi commander to identify those who were Jewish so their dog tags could be removed. Edmonds refused to comply with the order.

 “We are all Jews here,” Edmonds defiantly told the German officer.

“Then my dad said: 'If you are going to shoot, you are going to have to shoot all of us because we know who you are and you'll be tried for war crimes when we win this war,'" Chris Edmonds told The Associated Press.

The Geneva Convention requires prisoners to only reveal their name, rank, and serial number, but their religious affiliation does not need to be identified to an officer, according to the Times of Israel.

Thankfully the German officer backed down, and Edmonds’ stance effectively saved over 200 Jewish American GIs from the inevitably of their deaths. Within another three months, the war ended, and Stalag IX was liberated.

Post-war, Edmonds returned to his home in the United States, but never openly spoke of his experiences in the POW camp or effectively saving the lives of the Jewish soldiers, and he was never recognized by the United States Army for this heroic act. He passed in 1985, and did not receive his first recognition until 2015 when Yad Vashem recognized Edmonds in the ranks of the Righteous Among the Nations. United States President Barack Obama attended a ceremony held at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. held in conjunction with International Holocaust Remembrance Day in which Edmonds’ son, a pastor, received a medal and certificate honoring his late father’s courageous actions.

"Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds seemed like an ordinary American soldier, but he had an extraordinary sense of responsibility and dedication to his fellow human beings," said Avner Shalev, Chairman of Yad Vashem.

Irena Steinfeldt, Director of the Righteous Among the Nations department at Yad Vashem elaborated, "Honoring Edmonds and others is an attempt to find some hope and recognize that every person is responsible for their deeds…We have a saying in Judaism that says, 'Whosoever saves a single life, saves an entire universe.”

Sources:
https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/master-sgt-roddie-edmonds-the-non-jewish-jewish-american-hero/
Associated Press: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/master-sgt-roddie-edmonds-honored-israel-defending-jews-n504441

Written by Erin Parfet

 

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