Amid the horror of the massacre at Virginia Tech, the story of a hero is being told. One brave professor blocked the door to his second-floor classroom, holding it closed until his students could flee out the window. In doing so, he gave his own life. [Update: President Bush mentioned Prof. Librescu in a news conference, as well as the fact that this Holocaust Survivor gave his life on Holocaust Remembrance Day. “We honor his memory,” said the President, “and take strength from his example.”]
Liviu Librescu was an Israeli, a survivor of the Holocaust. He was a Jew. And although he did not have an easy life, one that could have made him bitter, he instead devoted himself not only to teaching, but to others. The Jerusalem Post quotes his son Joe: “He saw himself as the ambassador of Israel to that part of the world, to an American university that had few Israelis but many representatives from the Arab world.”
A teenager during WWII, he survived fascist Romania and life in the shadow of the Gestapo. His father was deported to a forced labor camp during the war, while Librescu spend part of the war in relative safety in Russia, Joe Librescu said. “Afterward, he endured [communist dictator Nicolae] Ceaucescu’s Romania.”
As a scientist, his contacts with the outside world were blocked. When his desire to leave for Israel became known, he was forced to resign his position without knowing whether he would find other work. “Nevertheless, and at risk to his life, he continued to publish,” Librescu said. “So I wasn’t surprised at what he did when [facing] the shooter [Monday].”
Most professors who survived life in the former Soviet Union were not particularly religious — what they had was driven underground. In their photo montage of the casualties, CBS showed his university photo, and the JPost used that picture as well. But on their page entitled “Tales Of Heroism, Death And Survival,” the family-provided photo of Prof. Librescu shows him wearing a yarmulke. It is appropriate, because his death, widely publicized as a heroic act of martyrdom from an Israeli Holocaust survivor, was mekadesh shem shamayim [sanctified the Name of Heaven].