It is one thing to say that you would do this-or-that in a certain circumstance from the comfort of your kitchen table. It is another thing to be out in the open, unarmed, at the mercy of the merciless, and do the right thing.
It also speaks to the character of a man to do something such as this, and then keep it to himself. He didn't brag about it. He didn't try to make a career out of it. He didn't try to make himself anything more than what he was; an honorable man doing only what he hoped others would do for him.
Captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge, Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds of the US 422nd Infantry Regiment was the senior officer in the American section of the Stalag IXA prisoner of war camp.Leadership, clear and simple. Strength is contagious. An act of honor will bring more acts of honors.
“I would estimate that there were more than 1,000 Americans standing in wide formation in front of the barracks with Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds standing in front, with several senior non-coms beside him, of which I was one,” Tanner said.
“There was no question in my mind, or that of Master Sergeant Edmonds, that the Germans were removing the Jewish prisoners from the general prisoner population at great risk to their survival.
“The US Army’s standing command to its ranking officers in POW camps is that you resist the enemy and care for the safety of your men to the greatest extent possible,” Tanner said.
When Nazi guards demanded all Jewish prisoners report the following morning, in a move reminiscent of the movie Spartacus, Edmonds instructed all soldier inmates in the camp to show up alongside their Jewish comrades.
When camp commandant Major Siegmann saw the entire American contingent standing and identifying as Jews he exclaimed, “they cannot all be Jews,” and Edmonds replied, “we are all Jews.”
Siegmann then drew his pistol on Edmonds, who coolly responded that “according to the Geneva Convention, we only have to give our name, rank and serial number. If you shoot me, you will have to shoot all of us, and after the war you will be tried for war crimes.”
Outfaced by Edmonds, the commandant turned and walked away.
Lester Tanner, one of the Jewish POWs Edmonds had save, said of his brave commander: “He did not throw his rank around. You knew he knew his stuff and he got across to you without being arrogant or inconsiderate. I admired him for his command.
“We were in combat on the front lines for only a short period, but it was clear that Roddie Edmonds was a man of great courage who led his men with the same capacity we had come to know him in the States,” Tanner said.
When the hateful, bigoted, or those who are just following the orders of the hateful and bigoted, come to your command and order you to break your people in to different groups by race, creed, color, religion or national origin for "special treatment" large or small - what is your response? What are the consequences to you for your actions relative to Master Sergeant Edmonds's?