More than three decades after his death, United States Army Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds received a posthumous award for his working saving 200 Jewish soldiers from deportation to a Nazi slave labor camp, reported the Times of Israel.
Edmonds and almost 1,300 other American GIs were captured at the Battle of Bulge, in the waning days of World War II, and then marched to a prisoner-of-war camp. As the highest ranking officer among the prisoners, Edmonds was responsible for all the men who were being held. His moment of truth came soon after their arrival at the prison camp, when Nazi authorities ordered Jewish soldiers to appear outside their barracks one morning, in order to transfer them to a slave labor camp, where most of them were bound to die. Jewish soldiers could often be identified from their dogtags, which contained the letter “H” for Hebrew and by the prayerbooks that some of them carried with them.
Edmonds decided to resist the order, and commanded all the soldiers under his control to show up in front of the barracks as well, telling the Nazi authorities that all the soldiers were Jewish. Thanks to his action, the Jewish soldiers survived the war, and some of them showed up at the awards ceremony Monday night at New York Public Library, where Edmonds’ family accepted the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous’ “Yehi Or” (Let There Be Light) Award.
Edmonds’ son Chris, himself a pastor, told the Times of Israel that his father had been motivated by his religious beliefs and moral conscience. “He was a man of faith. He never bragge0d on anything but God. Well, maybe his sons sometimes,” he said.
Daniel J. Solomon is the Assistant to the Editor/News Writer at the Forward. Originally from Queens, he attended Harvard as an undergraduate, where he wrote his senior thesis on French-Jewish intellectual history. He is excited to have returned to New York after his time in Massachusetts. Daniel’s passions include folk music, cycling, and pointed argument.