WASHINGTON (News release) — Seventy-five years ago today, Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds saved the lives of more than 200 American Jews at a brutal Nazi POW camp. U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) shares the story of MSG Edmonds’ singular heroism in a video titled, “We Are All Jews Here.” Watch the video below. Text of the narrated story is under the video.
January 27, 1945. A bitterly cold morning in northwest Germany.
Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds prayed one last time for courage, as he had through a cold, sleepless night.
You see, Sergeant Edmonds was the senior man among nearly thirteen hundred American prisoners-of-war in a brutal Nazi POW camp.
Just twenty-four, his men looked up to him. One soldier recalled, Roddie “was cut from a different cloth than the rest of us.” Another sergeant added, “Roddie was different, determined, and steady as a rock.”
By that morning, Sergeant Edmonds had held his troops together for more than a month of captivity, starvation rations, forced marches, and freezing cold.
But today was different.
The previous afternoon, the camp’s loudspeakers crackled with a chilling order: “Tomorrow morning, at roll call, all Jewish Americans must assemble—only the Jews—no one else. All who disobey will be shot.”
Sergeant Edmonds’s response was immediate: “We’re not doing that.”
He ordered his senior men: every American falls out in the morning, even the sick and infirm. And every soldier would say he’s Jewish. Every single one. No one could disobey or misunderstand, or the plan would fail.
Roddie checked his men throughout the night, ensuring they were ready.
In between, he prayed with them. Proverbs 28:1: “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.”
At 0600, the Americans formed up in the frigid darkness, Sergeant Edmonds in command, the sick leaning on the men next to them.
A Nazi major approached, astonished. He yelled at Roddie, “What is this, a joke?”
Roddie stared straight ahead and declared, “Under Article Seventeen of the Geneva Convention, prisoners-of-war are only required to provide name, rank, and serial number.”
The major barked, “Were my orders not clear, Sergeant? Only the Jews were to fall out.”
Still staring ahead, Roddie replied, “Major, we’ll give you name, rank, and serial number. That’s all.”
The Nazi screamed, “They can’t all be Jews!”
Now, Roddie looked him straight in the eyes and answered, “We are all Jews here.”
His defiant bravery swept through the ranks. No one moved.
Enraged, the Nazi drew his pistol and pressed the muzzle right between Roddie’s eyes. “Sergeant, one last chance. You will order the Jews to step forward or I will shoot you right now.”
Again, no one moved. After a long silence, Roddie calmly replied, “Major, you can shoot me, but you’ll have to kill all of us—because we know who you are—and you will be tried for war crimes when we win this war. And you will pay.”
There they stood, a Nazi and an American GI, staring each other down. One filled with genocidal hatred, one with God’s love. Still, no one moved—until the Nazi lowered his weapon and stormed off.
Because of Roddie Edmonds’s singular heroism that fateful morning, more than two hundred American Jews survived. Roddie’s son, Pastor Chris Edmonds, estimates that more than 12,000 people have lived over these last seventy-five years because of his dad’s actions in that POW camp.
Today, Chris reflects on the moral of his dad’s incredible story: “We all have the potential to change the world simply by standing up for what’s right.”
Roddie Edmonds stood for what’s right, righteous and bold as a lion.