Standing Up to Nazis: Remembering Master Sergeant Roderick Edmonds

by | Dec 20, 2023 | Fact Heroes

A memorial to Master Sergeant Roderick Edmonds in Knoxville, Tennessee

Standing Up to Nazis: Remembering Master Sergeant Roderick Edmonds

by | Dec 20, 2023 | Fact Heroes

A memorial to Master Sergeant Roderick Edmonds in Knoxville, Tennessee

There can be little doubt that Trump would have despised someone like Master Sergeant Edmonds, who stood unflinching with a Nazi pistol aimed at his head and refused to hand over the Jews under his command.

Republished with permission from Steve Schmidt

Three days have passed since Donald Trump incited a crowd of New Hampshire voters into a state of frenzied ecstasy with fascist rhetoric and a direct appeal to blood and soil nationalism that is antithetical to Americanism.

Trump represents darkness and a pathway to national obliteration. His words are a summons towards disaster and an abyss that leads to unfathomable destruction. They should not be discounted or dismissed. Rather, they should be carefully appraised and understood.

The language Trump is using is the language of Adolf Hitler. Please understand what this Trump quote means as a declaration when referring to undocumented immigrants:

“They’re poisoning the blood of our country. All over the world they are pouring into our country.”

It is a declaration of repudiation against America and the ideals of a nation founded on an idea.

The imperfections of America have always been most glaring where the lofty ideals of freedom are contradicted by long legacies of injustice and oppression. Yet, there seems to be an overwhelming gravity that has pulled America towards the ideals and away from the contradictions over time. Freedom and equality have come to mean freedom and equality for everyone in America in form, if not yet fully in practice.

Trumpism has become a revanchist philosophy. It is radical, and simultaneously reactionary, teeming with menace, hostility and contempt for pluralism and democracy. Remarkably, it has succeeded in destroying the faithfulness of the third oldest political party in the world towards the oldest constitution in the world, as well as the elections created as a result of the American revolution with barely a peep of protest. What is remarkable about the event when considered through the prism of a coup d’état is the total silence of response. The capitulation occurred with barely a squeak. In fact, the hypocrisy which was once denied, then flaunted and celebrated has become so banal that it can be all but ignored.

Elise Stefanik poses with Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago on December 18, 2023. Photo credit: Elise Stefanik, X.

There is a story that you should know that is rooted to this day through the 80th anniversary of its beginning.

Donald Trump has long denigrated America’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guardsmen. He has insulted their fallen, their wounded, their disabled and their surviving families. Trump has denigrated their honor, valor, service and sacrifice. He has desecrated their country and belittled their “last full measure of devotion.” Incredibly, he has assailed American POWs, who have endured the unthinkable all across the world as being cowards. The stench from his character assassination of John McCain and the 684 Vietnam War POWs will never lessen and always linger about his rancid legacy.

There can be little doubt that Trump would have despised an American soldier from the American south captured in the Battle of the Bulge 80 years ago today. His name was Master Sergeant Roderick Edmonds from Knoxville, Tennessee. He was captured by the Nazis five days after arriving in Belgium in December 1944 as part of a wave of replacement troops for the final push into Germany.

Incredibly, Master Sergeant Edmonds found himself at Stalag IX-B at the head of a formation of almost 1,300 American POWs, where he was the senior soldier. The 26-year-old Master Sergeant was in charge. There was not a single officer in the camp.

The Nazi commandant demanded that Sgt. Edmonds call the Jewish Americans forward and separate them out. The Nazi position was that they had impure blood and needed to be enslaved or incinerated. Coincidentally, all of this occurred on the same day that Soviet Red Army forces overran a series of concentration camps that beggared description called Auschwitz-Birkenau in Eastern Poland outside of Krakow.

Sgt. Edmonds refused.

The Nazi commandant held a gun to his head.

Sgt. Edmond did not blink. He refused.

He said that they were all Jews. He then invited the Nazi officer to execute all of them as Jews and become a war criminal who would be hunted down when the war was lost.

The Nazi commandant walked away.

There were more than 300 American Jews in the prisoner ranks. They were not betrayed.

E Pluribus Unum.

Roderick Edmonds came home from the war and never said a word about any of this to anyone before he died in 1985.

His secret did not hold.

Today, he is remembered as “righteous among the nations,” and is a recipient of his nation’s gratitude and esteem because he was an American hero grounded in Americanism.

Americanism must be defended by all of us who treasure liberty, freedom and justice. Each are different things and none can exist without the other. They are all threatened.

When a former president of the United States decides to embrace the concepts, creeds, theories and ideas of Adolf Hitler to rouse the emotions of his followers, it must be confronted relentlessly and factually.

Just because most political reporters don’t understand what they are looking at doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Ignorance is danger—not bliss—in this situation.

The skies are darkening, and there is trouble ahead. Americans do not run from trouble. They move towards it.

Everyone should remember Sergeant Edmonds at the beginning of a most tumultuous year ahead.

Steve Schmidt

Steve Schmidt

Steve Schmidt is a political analyst for MSNBC and NBC News. He served as a political strategist for George W. Bush and the John McCain presidential campaign. Schmidt is a founder of The Lincoln Project, a group founded to campaign against former President Trump. It became the most financially successful Super-PAC in American history, raising almost $100 million to campaign against Trump's failed 2020 re-election bid. He left the group in 2021.

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