Jerusalem — Roddie Edmonds is the first American soldier that will receive the “Righteous among the Nations” honor from the Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum.
The acknowledgement is part of the Israel’s Holocaust remembrance and research center, and it is reserved for non-Jews who risked their lives to save members of this community during the Holocaust. It was granted to the late Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds due to the great service he provided while he served in the 422nd POW Camp in Germany Infantry Regiment of the US Armed Forces in World War II.
“Master Sgt. 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.” Avner Shalev, Yad Vashem Chairman said.
Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds of Knoxville, Tenn., was a noncommissioned officer who participated in the landing of U.S. forces in Europe. He was captured in the Battle of the Bulge. In January 1945, the Germans announced that all Jewish POWs in the camp were to report the following morning. They were going to be sent to slave labor camps, where their chances of survival were slim.
Edmonds, who was the highest-ranking soldier in the American section of the camp, ordered to all his men, Jews and non-Jews, to step forward as the German commander called for few. So they all did, hundreds of soldiers.
When the German camp commander saw all the inmates reporting, he said: “they cannot all be Jews!” according to Yad Vashem. “We are all Jews,” Edmonds replied. He cited the Geneva Convention and refused to identify any prisoners by religion.
Edmond becomes one of the five Americans to be recognized as a righteous gentile by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial. The others are Varian Fry, Waitstill and Martha Sharp, and Lois Gunden.
More than 26,000 people have been designated “Righteous Among the Nations,” the most famous being Oskar Schindler, whose efforts saved more than 1,000 Jews and Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who is credited for having saved at least 20,000 Jews before mysteriously disappearing.