The Power of Big Love

“Imagine these terrible circumstances. It is 1945. Roddie Edmonds, a 26-year old U.S. Army Master Sergeant, is being held in a German prisoner of war camp. As the highest-ranking soldier among the 1292 American POWs in the camp, he is responsible for their well-being. Edmonds had been in the camp for one month when the German commandant ordered all Jewish American soldiers to line up outside the barracks the next morning. What happened next? Roddie Edmonds told his men: ‘We are not doing that, we are all falling out.’ At the lineup, an angry commandant approached Edmonds and exclaimed, “They cannot all be Jews.” Again Edmonds is ordered to identify the Jewish soldiers; there were 200 Jewish soldiers among the soldiers lining up that morning. The German commandant told Edmonds to identify his Jewish soldiers. Edmonds replied, ‘We are all Jews here.’ Enraged, the commandant pressed a Luger to Edmonds’ head and again demanded that the Jewish soldiers be identified. His own life on the line, Edmonds had the presence of mind to reply, ‘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.’ The commandment lowered his pistol and walked away. Months later Edmonds and his men were liberated. We would like to think we would have reacted the way Roddie Edmonds did – clearly and decisively. Perhaps… (read on for this excellent essay by Barry Brownstein)

Published by markskidmore

Mark Skidmore is Professor of Economics at Michigan State University where he holds the Morris Chair in State and Local Government Finance and Policy. His research focuses on topics in public finance, regional economics, and the economics of natural disasters. Mark created the Lighthouse Economics website and blog to share economic research and information relevant for navigating tumultuous times.

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