WASHINGTON D.C. (WATE) – President Donald Trump said Thursday he is, ‘looking at this strongly’, in response to a federal bill that would recognize a WWII soldier from Knoxville credited with saving over 200 Jewish soldiers.
Tennessee’s U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn and Lamar Alexander announced on Thursday, January 9 they would file legislation to award a Congressional Gold Medal to WWII 106th Infantry Division Master Sergent Roddie Edmonds, a Knoxville-native credited with saving the lives of 200 Jewish soldiers in a prisoner of war camp.
According to the 18th Airborne Corps, Edmonds was captured at the Battle of the Bulge on Dec. 19, 1944 and transported to a prison of war camp in Ziegenhain, Germany. Edmonds was the senior American non-commissioned officer at the site.
The following January, the camp’s commander ordered Edmonds, a Christian, to identify all Jewish soldiers and hold them in formation the next day. Captured Jewish soldiers were often tortured and/ or killed by their German captors.
Edmonds ordered all 1,275 American soldiers to assemble the following day. Refusing to single out the Jewish soldiers when confronted by the commander, Edmonds responded, “We are all Jews”. While being held at gunpoint by the commander, Edmonds told the Nazi that if any of his men were harmed, he would be hunted, tried and convicted for war crimes.
The commander walked away without harming any of the more than 200 Jewish soldiers at the camp. Three months later, Edmonds and all Americans were freed by Allied forces.
Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust recognized Edmonds in 2015 as a Righteous Among the Nations, Israel’s highest honor for non-Jews who saved Jews during World War II. He is the only WWII American serviceman to receive the honor and is one of five Americans to be recognized.
He passed away in 1985 at the age of 64. The story of Edmonds’ heroism remained untold for decades until his son, Reverend Chris Edmonds was able to unravel what happened.
Avner Shalev, chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and memorial, said this: “The choices and actions of Master Sgt. Edmonds set an example for his fellow American soldiers as they stood united against the barbaric evil of the Nazis.”
President Trump tweeted Thursday he is, “looking at this strongly” in response to Senator Alexander’s tweet on the legislation filed to award Edmonds the Congressional Gold Medal.