The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous (JFR) has announced it will honor an American soldier as “Righteous Among the Nations,” together with the Holocaust Center of Kean University. The event is set for November 9 — the anniversary of Kristallnacht — and two days before Veterans Day.
Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds is the only American soldier ever to be recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations.”
Pastor Chris Edmonds, the son of Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds, will deliver the keynote speech at the virtual event.
The younger Edmonds will recount the story of his father’s heroism in saving the lives of 200 Jewish American soldiers during World War II, as well as the story of how he discovered his father’s heroism years after his passing.
The program will also include a screening of the JFR’s award-winning short documentary, “Following the Footsteps of My Father,” recounting the story of rescue through the lens of Pastor Edmonds.
To date, Edmonds is the only US soldier to have been recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Center.
On Dec. 19, 1944, Master Sgt. Edmonds was captured by the German Army during the Battle of the Bulge and sent to the Stalag IXA Prisoner Of War (POW) camp. As the highest-ranking American soldier in the 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 and thereby saving their lives.
He survived 100 days of captivity, and returned home after the war, but never spoke of his actions. Edmonds passed away in 1985, and only long after his death did his son, Pastor Edmonds begin to put together the story of his father’s heroism during the war.
Posthumously, Edmond’s actions were recognized by Yad Vashem, designating him as one who is “Righteous Among the Nations.”
“As the only US soldier to have been recognized as ‘Righteous Among the Nations,” it is incredibly befitting that we pay our respect to Master Sgt. Edmonds’ outstanding deeds in honor of both Veteran’s Day and the anniversary of Kristallnacht,” said JFR Executive Vice President Stanlee Stahl.
“Putting his life on the line, his display of courage enabled over 200 Jewish soldiers to return home and build their families and lives. His legacy will forever stand tall in the histories told of the Righteous.”
The event will be free and open to the community. Advance registration is required.
The JFR also is continuing to provide monthly financial assistance to 120 aged and needy Righteous Gentiles, living in 12 countries. Since its founding, the JFR has provided more than $42 million to aged and needy rescuers – helping to repay a debt of gratitude on behalf of the Jewish people to these noble men and women.