I was born in New York City on January 27, 1924, and attended public schools there, and the College of the City of New York (class of 1945)…
I fought in four battles in the European Theatre of Operations as a combat medic. On December 17, 1944, I was captured by the Germans, and sent to the POW camps. After being liberated, I was honorably discharged from the service on December 22, 1945….
I knew Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds for a very short time, but I will never forget him. I was in the 28th Division, and he was in the 106th Division. Our paths crossed in the POW camps, mainly the Ziegenhain Stalag. He stood for everything good in a leader, and a compassionate human being.
I was a medic in the 28th Division. I fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and was captured by the Germans on December 17th, 1944. As prisoners of war, we were forced to march for four days in the bitter cold weather to a railroad station further into Germany. After many men died on the treacherous walk the American
POW's finally made it to their destination. At the station, we were pushed into a boxcar destined for one of Germany's POW camps. For four days we were crammed into the box car, and ate snow, if we could get it because there was no food or water during this horrific journey.
Once the railroad car arrived at the POW camp, Bad Orb Stalag, we were taken to our bunkers. A short time later, the American Jewish prisoners were ordered to divulge their religion and thus these young 19 and 20-year-old men (really boys) were segregated in a Jewish barracks. We had mattresses made of lice infested straw. The camp diet was hardly sufficient to keep us alive. Six men shared a slice of bread, and a small bowl of soup. The soup was made of rotten potatoes and any other remnants the Germans could find. While the soup was nearly inedible, we looked forward to eating it, because we were always starving.
After a short time, all noncommissioned officers were sent to the Ziegenhain Stalag, a second POW camp. I was made corporal weeks before I was captured, when I saved the lives of three enlisted men, and an officer on the battlefield. Being made corporal saved my life, because the privates left behind were iIllegally shipped to work in an underground factory in Eastern Germany, and many of them did not survive.
After a number of days at Ziegenhain, the German commander ordered all Jewish American POW's to line up the in front of the barracks the following morning. At that point, Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds informed all American soldiers to line up in military formation in front of the barracks the following morning. When the German commander saw the large contingent of POW's, he said to Sergeant Edmonds "You all can't be Jews", whereupon Sergeant Edmonds replied, "We are all Jews here." At that point the German commander put his gun against Edmonds forehead and said, "You will order all Jews to step forward, or I will shoot you right now." As I recall, Sergeant Edmonds then said "the Geneva Convention states that if a soldier is captured he need only provide his name, rank and serial number. If you shoot me, you will have to shoot all of us, because we all know who you are, and when the war is over you will be tried as a war criminal." At that point, the German commander left, and we all returned to our barracks. With that one act of courage, Sergeant Edmonds saved my life, as well as all the Jewish prisoners at Ziegenhain.
That critical confrontation occurred in a few short moments, yet it remained vivid
in my mind these many years, and I blessed Sergeant Edmonds for his heroic act of courage. Over these many years, that event went through my mind hundreds
of times, highlighting Sergeant Edmonds bravery, and his sense of duty, and his extraordinary courage under fire, outweighing any fear he might have had.
His plan for saving our American soldiers in the evacuation of the prison camp ahead of the liberation forces was just another brilliant and courageous move on his part. As the Allied forces came closer to our camp, the Germans ordered all POWis to leave the camp by foot or on waiting trucks. The British, French and other non American prisoners were hurried on to trucks, but Sergeant Edmonds ordered all Americans under his command to play sick, feign illness, eat dirt, and stay in the barracks, anything to prevent evacuation before the liberating forces arrived. His sense of duty, responsibility and devotion to the soldiers under his command went far beyond his own personal safety. As a result, only the American prisoners in the camp were left behind and ultimately saved due to Sergeant Edmonds outstanding courage. Soon afterwards, the Allied armies led by General Patton liberated us. Sergeant Edmonds shining example is something for all of us to remember, and try to emulate in our own lives….