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Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds, a World War 2 veteran, will be honored at the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem for one of the most strikingly courageous acts of solidarity I’ve ever heard of.
During the Battle of the Bulge at the end of 1944, Edmonds and 1,000 of his men were captured by Nazis and sent to a POW camp. While the horrors of the Holocaust had yet to be revealed in their entirety, the Allies knew that Nazis separated captured Jewish soldiers and sent them to slave labor camps, where chances of survival were low.
“We are not doing that, we are all falling out,” Edmonds told his men.
When the Nazi officer demanded, in English, that the Jews come forward, he was more than surprised to see every single man standing in front of the barracks.
“They cannot all be Jews,” he said.
“We are all Jews here,” Edmonds replied.
The Nazi put his pistol to Edmonds’ forehead and asked again. Still, Edmonds refused. Instead of giving up his Jewish men, he gave the fascist his serial number, name, rank, and a threat.
“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.”
The Nazi officer put his gun down and walked away.
Edmonds died in 1985. He spoke only vaguely about his time in the war, leaving the story of what happened in those barracks to die along with him. But thanks to a stroke of luck and some hard work by his son, Chris, the incredible act of valor has finally come to the surface.
From Times of Israel:
His son vaguely knew about his father’s past from a pair of diaries Edmonds kept in captivity that included the names and addresses of his men and some of his daily thoughts.
But it was only while scouring the Internet a few years ago that he began to unravel the true drama that had unfolded — oddly enough, when he read a newspaper article about Richard Nixon’s post-presidency search for a New York home. As it happened, Nixon purchased his exclusive upper East Side town house from Lester Tanner, a prominent New York lawyer who mentioned in passing how Edmonds had saved him and dozens of other Jews during the war.
That sparked a search for Tanner, who along with another Jewish POW, Paul Stern, told the younger Edmonds what they witnessed on Jan. 27, 1945, at the Stalag IXA POW camp near Ziegenhain, Germany.
Seventy years later, Israel is posthumously awarding Edmonds their highest honor for non-Jews. His name will be engraved alongside names like Oskar Schindler, the Nazi defector who became famous for saving 1,000 Jews by employing them in his factories. Edmonds is the first GI to receive the honor..
[via Times of Israel]