A native of Knoxville, Tennessee, Roddie Edmonds grew up in the Methodist church during the Great Depression. And like most young men of his generation, Edmonds enlisted in the U.S. military at the dawn of WWII.
The Battle of the Bulge
Master Sergeant Edmonds arrived at the European frontlines with American troops of the 106th Infantry in December 1944. They got to the combat zone just five days before the Nazis launched what came to be known as the Battle of the Bulge. During this final German attack, the Nazis captured Edmonds and took him prisoner.
Imprisoned at Stalag IX-A, Roddie Edmonds found himself the senior American noncommissioned officer of the Nazi camp. As such, the 1,275 American POWs there became his responsibility.
‘We Are All Jews Here’
On the first day at the camp, the Nazi commandant ordered Edmonds to tell just the Jewish-American POWs to present themselves, which would separate them from their gentile comrades. With Germany’s defeat now clear, the Nazis had begun to feverishly eliminate any Jews they had not yet murdered. Sergeant Roddie Edmonds made sure this would not include the Jews of Stalag IX-A.
The next morning, Edmonds ordered all 1,275 American POWs – Christian and Jew alike – to assemble outside. The Nazi commandant flew into a fury, pressing his pistol against Edmonds’ head and ordering him to identify the Jews. Edmonds coolly replied: “We are all Jews here.”
If the commandant wanted to shoot Jews, then he would have to shoot all of the prisoners. Edmonds then reminded the commandant that the Geneva Convention only requires POWs to give their name, rank, and serial number…not their religion. And Edmonds warned the Nazi that if he shot a single one of the prisoners he would be prosecuted for war crimes. The Nazi backed down.
Righteous Among the Nations
One hundred days later, the American POWs returned home when the war in Europe ended. Back in the U.S., Roddie Edmonds returned to civilian life, working for the Knoxville Journal and in the mobile home and cable television industries. Not once did he share his heroic war story. And it remained that way after he passed away in 1985, without recognition for what he’d done.
After Edmonds’ death, his son, a Baptist pastor, began reading his father’s war diaries. Chris Edmonds learned of what happened in the POW camp and began researching it more. He found several of the Jewish soldiers still alive, who provided testimony to Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial, whose tribute to Edmonds you can watch above. And at last, 30 years after his death, Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds, an American hero and true Advocate and Ally of the Jewish people, earned the title “Righteous Among the Nations.”
Tags: Advocates and Allies History Roddie Edmonds Video WWII Yad Vashem