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Israel Honors US Sergeant for Defying Commander of Nazi Camp

FILE - U.S. tanks move in the snow and ice from the town of Tri-le-Cheslaing, Belgium, on Jan. 7, 1945 during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. Robbie Edmonds, taken prisoner during the battle, refused to separate Jewish POWs from the other America

A deceased U.S. Army sergeant has become the first American soldier to be named a Righteous Among Nations by Israel's official Holocaust memorial.

The rare title bestowed by Yad Vashem goes to non-Jews who risked their lives to protect Jews from certain death at the hands of the Nazis in World War II.

Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds, who died in 1985, was given the honor Wednesday. It was accepted by his son.

Edmonds was taken prisoner by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944.

When a Nazi officer attempted to separate the Jewish prisoners from the rest of the American POWs, Edmonds ordered all the men to step forward, declaring "We are all Jews."

The enraged Nazi officer threatened to shoot Edmonds on the spot, but the American sergeant refused to back down and told the German that under the rules of war, prisoners are only required to give their names, ranks and serial numbers -- not their religious beliefs.

The Nazi officer shuffled away in defeat. The Americans who were imprisoned with Edmonds say the sergeant knew of the murderous Nazi policy towards Jews and say he likely saved hundreds of lives by his refusal to kowtow to the Germans.