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May 7, 2024

Profiles of Valor: MSG Roddie Edmonds (USA)

“We are ALL Jews.”

Now that encampments of “brave” anti-Semitic Generation Narcissist student protesters and the dropout antifa fascists infiltrating their cadres have sprouted like weeds, should anyone be surprised? Some of the faculty indoctrinators at these institutions have been trying to bury the Holocaust for decades.

With that as a backdrop, let’s consider what real courage looks like. What follows is the account of a heroic man who boldly put himself between the most notorious anti-Semitic regime in modern history, and the Jews it sought to exterminate.

Roderick “Roddie” Edmonds was a native of Knoxville, Tennessee. Not much is known of his early life other than he grew up in a Christian family with three brothers. After graduating high school, he enlisted in the Army at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.

In December 1944, then-Master Sergeant Edmonds was deployed to the German warfront with the 106th Infantry Division (“Golden Lions”), 422nd Infantry Regiment. On December 16, days after Edmonds’s arrival, the 422nd was besieged by Nazis as Adolf Hitler launched his “Battle of the Bulge” counteroffensive. One soldier noted: “We were surrounded and cut off by columns of German tanks, artillery and troops. Our division headquarters was being attacked — and that was ten miles behind us.”

On the afternoon of December 19, the 422nd Commander determined he could not sustain the losses and had to surrender. Some Regimental elements, including the Headquarters Company in which MSG Edmonds served, held out for two more days before surrendering. Edmonds noted, “It was a hopeless cause in our case and when CPT Foster surrendered us, it was a wise thing, our rifles were no good against tanks.”

Over the course of that counteroffensive, the Nazis captured more than 20,000 GIs. Ironically, the sheer number of POWs diverted substantial German military assets from the battle front. The men of the 422nd Regiment were marched about 50 kilometers through brutal winter weather to Gerolstein, Germany, where they were loaded on box cars and transported to Stalag IXB in Bad Orb, Germany — those same boxcars had been used over the previous four years to transport Jews to their deaths.

At Stalag IXB, the soldiers who were assumed to be Jewish by their family names, had been segregated from the other POWs and imprisoned in a section within the Stalag. Notably, this accounts for why some Jews altered their names after World War II. Dog tags had a letter indicating the religion of the bearer, but Jewish service members were warned if captured, to destroy the tags immediately.

In preparation for transport to another Stalag, American prisoners were divided into three groups: Officers, Noncommissioned Officers (NCOs), and Enlisted. The NCOs, and many of the segregated Jews, were then transported to Stalag IXA near Ziegenhain, Germany, where MSG Edmonds was the senior noncommissioned officer in the camp. That meant he was responsible for the other 1,292 American POWs.

On 27 January 1945, as it was becoming increasingly apparent that the end of the Third Reich was months away, the camp’s vicious German Commandant, Major Siegmann, ordered Edmonds to identify all the American POWs who were Jews. He ordered they were to be assembled outside their barracks the next morning so that they could be segregated from the rest of the prisoners, as the Nazis had done at Stalag IXB.

But Edmonds knew this was different, and that Siegmann’s intent was to execute his Jewish men, so he summoned his senior NCOs and gave them instructions. What happened after sunrise on January 28 is legendary, but until recent years, it was little known.

Shortly after the freezing daybreak, instead of segregating the Jews as ordered, Edmonds and his senior NCOs assembled all 1,292 POWs outside their barracks.

The Nazi Commandant was furious with Edmonds, exclaiming, “They cannot all be Jews!”

Edmonds responded, “We are all Jews here.”

Again, “We are ALL Jews here.”

Siegmann approached Edmonds, drew and pointed his Luger 9mm pistol at Edmonds’ head, and demanded, “You will order all Jews to step forward, or I will shoot you right now.” But MSG Edmonds did not back down, telling Siegmann: “Major, you will have to shoot all of us because we all know who you are. This war will soon be over, and when the war is over, you will be tried as a war criminal. … According to the Geneva Convention, we only have to give our name, rank, and serial number.”

The Conventions make no provision for having to disclose religion, and with an Allied victory on the horizon, Edmonds again brazenly warned Siegmann that he would be prosecuted.

Siegmann reluctantly holstered his pistol and took no further action. It is estimated that Edmonds’s actions that morning saved more than 200 Jews among the Stalag POWs.

Two months later, the Nazis and some prisoners of other nationalities vacated the camp ahead of approaching Allied Forces, but Edmonds refused the order for his Americans to vacate. Days later on 30 March, the POWs were liberated from Stalag IXA by the 6th Armored Division.

However, Edmonds’s actions were not recognized further, and being a brave but humble man, like many World War II Veterans, in the years that followed, he preferred not to discuss the trauma and suffering he witnessed.

Roddie Edmonds died in 1985, but three decades after his death, his defense of the Jewish POWs would finally be appropriately recognized.

Shortly after his burial, Roddie’s wife, Mary Ann, gave his son Chris several diaries Roddie kept while a POW. One entry noted: “I’ve made new friends and lost some. I don’t know if all my boys are alive or not, but I pray that they are. It all seems like a bad dream.” As Chris, a Baptist minister, read the diaries further, he began researching the account of his father’s steadfast refusal to identify Jewish POWs. Over the next two decades, Chris was able to find Jewish soldiers his father had saved — and they verified his actions.

Jewish POW and fellow 422nd veteran Lester Tannenbaum (who later changed his name to Tanner) described that cold winter morning: “I would estimate that there were more than one thousand Americans standing in wide formation in front of the barracks, with Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds standing in front of the formation with several senior noncoms beside him, of which I was one… There was no question in my mind or that of MSG Edmonds that the Germans were removing the Jewish prisoners from the general prisoner population at great risk to their survival. The U.S. Army’s standing command to its ranking officers in POW camps is that you resist the enemy and care for the safety of your men to the extent possible. MSG Edmonds, at the risk of his immediate death, defied the Germans with the unexpected consequence that the Jewish prisoners were saved.”

Of Edmonds’s leadership, Tanner said: “He did not throw his rank around. You knew he knew his stuff, and he got across to you without being arrogant or inconsiderate. I admired him for his command… We were in combat on the front lines for only a short period, but it was clear that Roddie Edmonds was a man of great courage who led his men with the same capacity we had come to know in the States.”

After being liberated, Tanner said, “I lost track of Roddie and I never saw him again after that day, but it was never out of my mind.”

In retrospective tears he added: “I have to tell you, that experience with Roddie was the defining experience of my life. Edmonds saved my life when he defied the Germans. It wasn’t only my life. I have four children, eight grandchildren, two great grandchildren. They wouldn’t be here without him. Multiply that by 200 and you can see how important that decision has been. Roddie could no more turn over any of his men to the Nazis than he could stop breathing. He couldn’t do it — a righteous man.”

Another Jewish POW, Medic Paul Stern, who also stood next to Edmonds in the formation on 28 January 1945, recalled: “I knew Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds for a very short time, but I will never forget him. … He stood for everything good in a leader, and a compassionate human being. … Roddie was incredible, and he never got his recognition. … Although seventy years have passed, I can still hear the words he said to the German camp commander.”

Jewish POW, Sydney “Skip” Friedman, who was also in the Headquarters Division of the 422nd with Edmonds and Tanner, observed, “We were liberated on March 30th, the second day of Passover,” the historic Jewish celebration of liberation. He added, “We were very lucky to have [Edmonds] with us.”

Their documented accounts, including that of American television host Irwin “Sonny” Fox, who was among those Roddie saved, were presented to Israel’s Yad Vashem Center, the national organization established to memorialize victims of the Holocaust.

On February 10, 2015, Yad Vashem officially recognized Edmonds for his defense of Jewish servicemen at Stalag IXA. He was posthumously awarded the title of “Righteous Among the Nations,” Israel’s highest award for non-Jews who risked their own lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Perhaps the most famous of the recipients is Oskar Schindler, whose efforts to save more than 1,000 Jews were documented by Steven Spielberg in his 1993 film “Schindler’s List.”

Edmonds was the fifth of only five Americans — and the only World War II serviceman — to receive this award. Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer and Yad Vashem Council Chairman Rabbi Lau presented Chris Edmonds the Righteous Medal and Certificate of Honor on his father’s behalf.

POW Sonny Fox declared, “That such people can exist gives you hope for humanity.”

Indeed.

A few days ago at a National Medal of Honor Heritage Center event, I was telling some friends who are descendants of another Tennessean, Medal of Honor recipient Alvin York, about Roddie Edmonds’s heroics. We concluded there is so much goodness across the generations of American Patriots that there is an endless supply of such accounts, but they rarely rise above the din of all the negative media that saturates our senses in order that the MSM can generate ad revenues.

(I would ask that you please share this account of Edmonds’ goodness using the social media links below.)

The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous made a short video based on Chris Edmonds’s book, No Surrender: A Father, A Son, and an Extraordinary Act of Heroism That Continues to Live on Today. You can view “Following the Footsteps of My Father” here. Chris says, “The biggest joy for me has been to see the real people, the lives that have been touched and changed.”

And a final note…

At the Yad Vashem ceremony, Chairman Avner Shalev observed: “Roddie Edmonds seemed like an ordinary American soldier, but he had an extraordinary sense of responsibility and dedication to his fellow human beings. These attributes form the common thread that binds members of this select group of Righteous Among the Nations. The choices and actions of Master Sgt. Edmonds set an example for his fellow American soldiers as they stood united against the barbaric evil of the Nazis.”

Roddie Edmonds’s actions should also set an example for young Americans on college and university campuses. They should stand united against the barbaric evil of the Hamas fascists, as some brave students have done.

Roddie Edmonds: Your example of valor — a humble American Patriot defending Liberty for all above and beyond the call of duty, and in disregard for the peril to your own life — is eternal. “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

(Read more Profiles of Valor here.)

Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776

Postscript: Joe Biden, who has mastered the art of equivocation when it comes to anti-Semitic protesters and our support for Israel, demonstrated his boundless hypocrisy this week by showing up for a Holocaust Remembrance event and reading disingenuous teleprompted remarks to prove he is the consummate “lying dog-faced pony soldier.”

Follow Mark Alexander on X/Twitter.


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