Orange congregation will honor man who saved hundreds
ORANGE >> Congregation Or Shalom will celebrate the life-saving, selfless deed of World War II Army Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds at its 10th annual Kristallnacht Commemoration.
The free event starts at 9 a.m. Nov. 20 at 205 Old Grassy Hill Road.
Edmonds’ son, Pastor Chris Edmonds of Maryville, Tenn., will speak about his late father.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., will present a commendation to the Edmonds family.
Former soldiers who are alive today because of Edmonds will attend the event.
Edmonds, at the risk of his immediate death, saved the lives of up to 200 American soldiers at Stalag IXA prisoner of war camp near Ziegenhain, Germany, Yad Vashem, Israel’s center for Holocaust studies, recently verified and confirmed.
In late 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, Edmonds was captured by the German army along with more than 1,000 American soldiers of the 422nd Infantry Regiment.
Eyewitnesses recall that on Jan. 27, 1945, the Nazi POW camp commandant, Maj. Siegmann, speaking in English, ordered the Jewish prisoners to identify themselves.
The imprisoned soldiers remember the moment that 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 in front of their barracks, he turned to Edmonds and bellowed, “These men cannot all be Jews!”
Edmonds retorted, “We are all Jews here.”
The commandant 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.”
Edmonds never mentioned the incident after the war. But in the years following his 1985 death, his son pieced it together with the help of his father’s diary and the Internet.
Ultimately, his son’s research led to recognition by Israel of Edmonds as a “Righteous Among the Nations.”
On Jan. 27, the anniversary of Edmonds’ courageous act, Pastor Edmonds received Yad Vashem’s highest award on behalf of his father and President Barack Obama visited the Israeli Embassy that day to participate in the event.
Roddie Edmonds is the first American serviceman to have received such an honor.