Soldier who protected 200 American-Jewish POWs to be awarded

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — An American POW who protected 200 American-Jewish POWs during World War II will be posthumously awarded by the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous.

The foundation will bestow its Yehi Ohr Award on Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds, who refused to reveal to a German commandant during World War II which troops under his command were Jewish while being held at the Stalag IXA  POW camp. The award ceremony will take place on Nov. 28 at the New York Public Library.  His son, Pastor Chris Edmonds, will accept the award.

Edmonds was captured during the Battle of the Bulge by the German army on December 19, 1944. As the highest ranking officer in the POW camp, Edmonds was responsible for the camp’s 1,292 American POWs. The camp’s commandant ordered Edmonds to identify the Jewish soldiers in order to separate them from the other prisoners. Instead, Edmonds refused, and when the German commandant placed his pistol against Edmonds’ head, demanding that he identify the Jewish soldiers, Edmonds responded “We are all Jews here,” refusing to identify the Jewish soldiers, thereby saving their lives.

Edmonds survived 100 days of captivity, and returned home after the war, but never told his family of his actions. Edmonds died in 1985, and only long after was first recognized for his heroic actions. The foundation also will be honoring several of the surviving Jewish servicemen saved by Edmonds.

“Over the years we have worked with and honored many holocaust survivors and their rescuers, but the story of Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds saving 200 Jewish-American soldiers truly distinguishes the man and leader he was. Though unfortunately we were not privileged enough to honor him during his lifetime, we hope that this year’s Yehi Ohr Award will show the gratitude and appreciation that our nation has on behalf of his heroic actions that day,” said chairman Harvey Schulweis, who also created the foundation.

Also at the event, the Robert I. Goldman Award for Excellence in Holocaust Education will be presented to Michael Gadilhe, a social studies teacher from John Carroll Catholic High School in Birmingham, Alabama, for his  commitment to teaching the Holocaust in his community.

The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous provides monthly financial assistance to more than 425 elderly and needy Righteous Gentiles, living in 20 countries, and sponsors a Holocaust teacher education program.

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