No Surrender

The medal of the Righteous bears the Jewish saying: “Whosoever saves a single life, saves an entire universe”

I have just finished the book No Surrender by Chris Edmonds and Douglas Century. The book is about Chris Edmonds quest to learn about his father’s Roddie Edmonds World War Two experiences. While he knew the broad-brush story, the real story with complete details was a hidden and almost lost story. It is a story that could have been lost forever, if not for a school project his daughter was assigned.  She was to make an oral history of a family member about a notable experience in their life. She was to pick her deceased Grandfather, Roddie Edmonds. In his efforts to help his daughter with the oral history project, he came to realize how little he knew about his dad. Confessing to his wife about his lack of knowledge, he said, “I feel like I’m letting Lauren-and her sisters-down. I should know more, but I just don’t, and I can’t even tell you why I don’t. Had I not cared enough to ask him? I hardly know anything about Dad’s childhood during the Depression or what he was like in high school. Or even his military service. It was like Dad lived an entire lifetime before I was born.”

Chris started to discover his father’s story and learned that his father had faced an angry Nazi POW camp commandant who had held a pistol pressed to his forehead. He also was to learn much more about his family, that he never knew. All of this information was just one generation, and in reality, only a few short years from being lost forever. The steps and methods used by Chris to research his father’s story are what genealogists use every day in their research. I was struck how, in many ways, this captivating story was almost a textbook on how to do field research on our family history. Also, it is a good insight into how he put his father’s story together and put real flesh and blood on the few bare-bone facts that he had at the start of his journey.

I highly recommend this book. It is one of the best reads I have had in a while. It is a story of human strength and endurance in the face of evil in its worst manifestation. It is, at the same time, a story of love, faith, and family. It is well worth your time to read this book, and when you do, you will soon be lost in the story.

As family historians, we all should be digging for our own family story. While the story we find may not be as grand as the one in “No Surrender,” I am willing to bet many could come close and may even surpass it in many ways. Some of your stories could be just under the surface just waiting to be discovered, just like Roddie Edmonds’s story, while other stories are buried deeply and could take great effort to find and bring to life. But finding these stories and researching the details, and then writing about them is what we should be doing. Anything less on our part is not doing a complete job. So, dig deeper, ask more questions, learn the history of the events you uncover. Be prepared to find stories and new information that may both delight and shock you. Whatever the outcome, shine a light on it and tell the story.

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25 Responses to No Surrender

  1. jtwitzel says:

    Sounds like a great book!
    I feel like the research for blogging is doing that investigating in it’s way. I started my blog for that very reason- to bring these almost lost (or lost and rediscovered) stories back into the light and preserve them.

  2. dlpedit says:

    My goodness! Just when I put myself on a strict book-buying budget, your review has made me add it to my (still growing) list! Great review!

  3. Thanks so much for posting this. I’m eager to read the book.

  4. I’ll be finding the book too. Thank you

  5. Amy says:

    The book sounds great—I will check it out. And I agree with your comments, of course!

  6. Very interesting! Sounds like a story my husbaand and I would both like to read. Sounds like I might enjoy the story while at the same time taking note of his research techniques. Thanks so much for sharing this Charles.

  7. Hi there. Glad ypu are finding many layers of value in this reading. I agree that learning new research techniques is often a matter of seeing how others approach a story. Many inspirations start from intuirion or picking up ideas from others. I never get fired up watching tutorials at Ancestry.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Tutorials are the foundation we all need. However seeing other people’s work is what fires people up. The book goes well beyond research techniques but also shows us how to tell a great story by example.

  8. Peter Klopp says:

    A book based on real people and real-life experiences has always had a special appeal to me. Thank you for sharing this book review with us!

  9. Sharon says:

    Thank you for this posting. I’ll be adding this to my list of reads as well 🙂

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I think that countless stories of fathers in World War II went unknown by their children. That generation really didn’t seem to want to talk about it. I am amazed that he was able to learn so much after the death of his father.

  11. Luanne says:

    I wish every family had someone willing to preserve their family stories.

  12. chattykerry says:

    That book sounds great! I love finding out new things about my family. Most recently, it occurred to me that my maternal grandmother’s parents probably died of Spanish Flu in 1918. Nana would never talk about why both relatively young parents died at the same time. She had to bring up the younger siblings after their death. Perhaps there was some kind of shame from succumbing to the pandemic?

    • chmjr2 says:

      In my family I lost an two Aunts, a grandmother, and a great grandmother in the 1918 flu. No shame that I know about but those generations did not look left or right and just put one foot in front of the other and carried on. They perhaps did not feel the need to talk about painful items in their life. Just a guess on my part. As for the book it is really a good story and makes you wonder if you could have done what that man did.

      • chattykerry says:

        I guess it was one of the many awful losses including WWI. So sorry that so many of your family succumbed to the flu. Half the skeletons in my family closet died of alcohol related illnesses.

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