Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds, Hero of the Holocaust

(Photo: Yad Veshem)

"We are all Jews here."

Many non-Jews risked their lives to help Jews escape from the Holocaust. In 1953, Israel created the Righteous among the Nations program to honor these heroes. Since then 25,685 people from 49 nations around the world have received Israel's highest honor.

For the first time, an American serviceman has been awarded the title of Righteous among the Nations. Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds of the United Stated Army earned it after he was captured by German forces in late 1944. He was a prisoner of war for 100 days. During that time, prison camp guards tried to separate Jewish soldiers from the American prisoners so that they could be executed.

MSgt. Edmonds stopped them. The Times of Israel describes how Edmonds, the senior NCO present, saved the lives of Jews among the prisoners of war:

Turning to the rest of the POWs, he said: “We are not doing that, we are all falling out,” recalled Chris Edmonds, who is currently in Israel participating in a seminar for Christian leaders at Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies.

With all the camp’s inmates defiantly standing in front of their barracks, the German commander turned to Edmonds and said: “They cannot all be Jews.” To which Edmonds replied: “We are all Jews here.”

Then the Nazi officer pressed his pistol to Edmonds head and offered him one last chance. Edmonds merely gave him his name, rank and serial number as required by the Geneva Conventions.

“And 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,'” recalled Chris Edmonds, who estimates his father’s actions saved the lives of more than 200 Jewish-American soldiers.

Witnesses to the exchange said the German officer then withdrew.

Edmonds was later liberated. He returned home to Knoxville, Tennessee, where he died in 1985. He never told his family about the incident. Edmonds's son, Chris Edmonds, learned of it only a few years ago.

-via Jonah Goldberg

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