In late 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds was captured by the German army along with over 1,000 American soldiers of the 422nd Infantry Regiment. Only recently, Yad Vashem, the state of Israel’s center for Holocaust studies, verified and confirmed that on January 27, 1945, Master Sergeant Edmonds, at the risk of his immediate death, saved the lives of a large number of American soldiers imprisoned at the Stalag IXA prisoner of war camp near Ziegenhain, Germany.
On Sunday morning November 20, 2016, 9 AM, Congregation Or Shalom, 205 Old Grassy Hill Road, Orange will celebrate the life-saving, selfless deed of Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds at the 10th annual Kristallnacht Commemoration.
Eyewitnesses vividly recall that on that day, the Nazi POW camp commandant, Major Siegmann, speaking in English, ordered the Jewish prisoners to identify themselves. And the imprisoned soldiers remember the moment Master Sargent Edmonds, the highest-ranking soldier in the U.S. section of the camp, turned to them and whispered, “We’re not doing that”. Instead, Edmonds instructed his men to stand together with the Jewish soldiers. When the Nazi commandant saw all the camp’s inmates standing defiantly in front of their barracks, he turned to Edmonds and bellowed, “These men cannot all be Jews!” Edmonds retorted, “We are all Jews here”. Major Siegmann then pointed his pistol at Edmonds and demanded that he identify his Jewish soldiers, to which Edmonds replied, “If you shoot me, you’ll have to shoot us all…We know who you are; when we win this war, you’ll be tried for war crimes”. It is estimated that Master Sgt. Edmonds saved the lives of as many as 200 Jewish-American soldiers that day.
Roddie Edmonds never mentioned the incident after the war. But in the years following his death, his son, Pastor Chris Edmonds of Maryville TN, painstakingly pieced it together with the help of his father’s diary and the Internet. Ultimately, Pastor Edmonds’ research led to recognition by the state of Israel of Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds as a “Righteous Among the Nations”. And on January 27, 2016, the very anniversary of Edmonds’ courageous act, Pastor Chris Edmonds received Yad Vashem’s highest award on behalf of his father. Interestingly, Roddie Edmonds is the first American serviceman to have received such an honor. And indeed, President Barack Obama visited the Israeli embassy that day to participate in the momentous event.
Pastor Chris Edmonds will speak about his father. Senator Richard Blumenthal will present a commendation to the Edmonds family. Soldiers who are alive today because of the life-saving deed of Master Sergeant Edmonds will also be present. All are welcome. Free and open to the public. This program is made possible by a generous donation from the Men’s Club Yellow Candle Fund. Please join us for this exciting community event! Contact Paula Samuel firstname.lastname@example.org, 203-799-6924 for more information.