In the sense of:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Muslim passengers defended Christian passengers during an extremist attack on a bus in Kenya on Monday.
Members of the al-Shabab militant organization shot at a bus in Mandera, Kenya, forcing it to stop. Once the militants boarded the bus, they attempted to separate Muslim and Christian passengers, intending to kill the Christians on board, the BBC reported.
“We even gave some non-Muslims our religious attire to wear in the bus so that they would not be identified easily. We stuck together tightly,” Abdi Mohamud Abdi, a Muslim passenger, told Reuters. “The militants threatened to shoot us but we still refused and protected our brothers and sisters. Finally they gave up and left but warned that they would be back.”
The local governor. Ali Roba, confirmed the account in an interview with Daily Nation, a Kenyan publication. “They refused to separate from non-Muslims and told the attacks to kill all passengers or leave,” Roba said. There were 62 passengers on board, according to the paper.
Recently I learned of a story that happened 7 decades ago in the 2nd World War. The name “Roddie Edmonds” and the measure of the man who owned it deserves telling and retelling; even if it’s recognition he never sought.
He kept quiet about December 19, the day Edmonds and his men were captured in the Battle of the Bulge, the last major Nazi offensive of the war, which caught Allied forces off guard. And he never told anyone what happened a month later in a prisoner-of-war camp in the heart of Germany.
He took that secret to his grave when he died in 1985, two weeks shy of his 66th birthday: the story about the day he challenged the commander of the POW camp and saved all the Jews under his command.
He shipped out in December 1944 with the 106th Infantry Division, arriving in Germany just in time to become a prisoner. Days earlier, Germany had launched the Battle of the Bulge. Edmonds and his men stood little chance.
“They were green,” says his son, Chris Edmonds, remembering the few stories his father told. “They were just overwhelmed.”
On Christmas Day, Edmonds and the other soldiers arrived in Stalag IX-B, a POW camp known as “Bad Orb” that housed more than 25,000 soldiers at a time. Thirty days later, Edmonds and the other noncommissioned officers were moved to Stalag IX-A with 1,275 other soldiers. As a master sergeant, he was the senior noncommissioned officer among the men.
On the prisoners’ first day at the POW camp, the German intercom system in the American barracks crackled to life. Only the Jewish POWs were to fall out after morning roll call.
At this point in the war, the Nazis were already implementing the Final Solution — their plan to wipe out the Jews of Europe that led to the killings of 6 million Jews at camps, including Auschwitz-Birkenau. That plan now extended to Jewish POWs from the Allied armies.
“We’re not going to do that,” Edmonds told his men, some of them still remember 70 years later. “Geneva Convention affords only name, rank and serial number, and so that’s what we’re going to do. All of us are falling out.”
Edmonds, a Christian, was true to his word. The next morning, all 1,275 soldiers stood at attention in front of their barracks. The commander of the camp was furious, storming up to Edmonds and shouting, “All of you can’t be Jewish?!”
“We are all Jews here,” Edmonds responded. Standing next to Edmonds was Paul Stern, a 19-year-old Jewish soldier who heard Edmonds’ words and the exchange with the base commander.
“I was so proud of him,” Stern tells me by phone from his home near Washington.
“I’m commanding you to have your Jewish men step forward,” the camp commander barked at Edmonds. Edmonds reminded the commander of the Geneva Conventions, telling him that he was entitled only to his prisoners’ names, ranks and serial numbers.
The commander pulled out his gun and pressed it into Edmonds’ forehead, Stern recalls: “You will have your Jewish men step forward or I will shoot you on the spot.”
Stern remembers Edmonds’ reply: “If you shoot, you’ll have to kill all of us, and you will have to stand for war crimes after we win this war.”
The major turned red, furious that a POW was challenging him, but he put his gun in his holster and walked away.
The men went back to their barracks and cheered Edmonds.
“Although 70 years have passed, I can still hear the words he said to the German camp commander,” Stern says.
We are all Jews.
We are all Muslims.
We are all Hindus.
We are all Christians…..
We are all fellow human beings. Brothers and sisters.
Merry Christmas to All.
A former fetus, the “wordsmith from nantucket” was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1968. Adopted at birth, wordsmith grew up a military brat. He achieved his B.A. in English from the University of California, Los Angeles (graduating in the top 97% of his class), where he also competed rings for the UCLA mens gymnastics team. The events of 9/11 woke him from his political slumber and malaise. Currently a personal trainer and gymnastics coach.
The wordsmith has never been to Nantucket.