Liviu Librescu: His story throughout the day

Liviu Librescu was a Romanian Jew who survived the Holocaust, emigrated from Romania to Israel over the objections of the Communists, came to America to teach engineering, and gave his life saving his students from the crazed gunman yesterday. I checked his website over at Tech. His resume is 61 pages long. This was a man of accomplishment. This was a life lived to the fullest, up to the very moment of death.

JERUSALEM — The e-mails from grateful students arrived soon after Liviu Librescu was shot to death, telling how the Holocaust survivor barricaded the doorway of his Virginia Tech classroom and saved their lives at the cost of his own.

Librescu, an Israeli engineering and math lecturer who survived the Nazi killings and later escaped from Communist Romania, was one of several foreign victims of Monday’s shootings, which coincided with Israel’s Holocaust remembrance day.

“My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee,” Librescu’s son, Joe Librescu, said Tuesday in a telephone interview from his home outside Tel Aviv. “Students started opening windows and jumping out.”

Joe Librescu, who studied at Virginia Tech from 1989 to 1994, said his mother received e-mails from students shortly after learning of her husband’s death.

That quote is from the latest story about Librescu. I’ve been following the story since this morning. But something gnawed at me through most of the day. The first mention of Librescu in the AP story this morning was missing one important detail that Ynet didn’t miss: That he was a survivor of the Holocaust. It was titled “Israeli Teacher Saved Lives in Shootings.” I found a copy that shouldn’t disappear into the ether the way MyWay AP articles do, from the LA Chronicle.” It shows the story this way at first:

Israeli Teacher Saved Lives in Shootings
JERUSALEM (AP) – The e-mails arrived soon after Marlena Librescu learned her husband had been shot to death – from students telling how he barricaded the doorway of his Virginia Tech classroom and saved their lives.

Liviu Librescu, an Israeli engineering and math lecturer, was one of several foreign victims of Monday’s shootings, which left 32 people dead, plus the gunman – South Korean national Cho Seung-Hui, 23.

“My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee,” Librescu’s son, Joe Librescu, said Tuesday in a telephone interview from his home outside of Tel Aviv. “Students started opening windows and jumping out.”

Nowhere in the first AP story do you learn Librescu survived the Nazis.

A couple of hours later, the lede changed. and the information was added.

The e-mails from grateful students arrived soon after Liviu Librescu was shot to death, telling how the Holocaust survivor barricaded the doorway of his Virginia Tech classroom and saved their lives at the cost of his own.

Librescu, an Israeli engineering and math lecturer who survived the Nazi killings and later escaped from Communist Romania, was one of several foreign victims of Monday’s shootings, which coincided with Israel’s Holocaust remembrance day.

And then the story changed. And changed again.

Holocaust survivor saved students’ lives
The e-mails from grateful students arrived soon after Liviu Librescu was shot to death, telling how the Holocaust survivor barricaded the doorway of his Virginia Tech classroom and saved their lives at the cost of his own.

Librescu, an Israeli engineering and math lecturer who survived the Nazi killings and later escaped from Communist Romania, was one of several foreign victims of Monday’s shootings, which coincided with Israel’s Holocaust remembrance day.

“My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee,” Librescu’s son, Joe Librescu, said Tuesday in a telephone interview from his home outside Tel Aviv. “Students started opening windows and jumping out.”

And finally, we have this version, with yet more changes:

Holocaust Survivor Killed in Va Shooting
Liviu Librescu survived the Nazi Holocaust. He died trying to keep a gunman from shooting his students in a killing spree at Virginia Tech – a heroic feat later recounted in e-mails from students to his wife.

Librescu, an aeronautics engineer and teacher at the school for 20 years, saved the lives of several students by using his body to barricade a classroom door before he was gunned down in Monday’s massacre, which coincided with Holocaust Remembrance Day.

I don’t know exactly what to think about the various changes of this story throughout the day. I could comment on whether they are more positive or negative as time goes by, but you’re all smart enough to figure that out for yourselves. This is just the sort of thing that I pick up on, and the sort of thing you read my blog for.

I found the variances in this particular story to be—puzzling. Which is why I didn’t write about it all day.

But I found myself thinking: If Librescu is one of the Jews that Hitler missed, just imagine the kinds of men and women we lost. Just imagine the leaps in science and medicine and technology we didn’t make, because of Europe’s Jew-hatred. And today, I think, there are a few parents out there who are thanking God that Hitler missed Liviu Librescu. So should we all.

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24 Responses to Liviu Librescu: His story throughout the day

  1. Michael Lonie says:

    I’ve found myself thinking the same thing often. What might those murdered Jews, yes and the others dead at the hands of the Nazis too, what might they have contributed to the world had they lived? When one thinks of how much Jews contributed to European culture over the last two centuries, and how much to world culture over the last sixty years, one can only conclude that the world is much the poorer for their deaths, and feel intense anger at those who brought it about.

    Librescu’s self sacrifice was an heroic act by a noble man, comparable to a soldier throwing himself on a grenade to save his comrades.

  2. Adrian says:

    You guys are right. But don’t forget to include all the victims of all wars not only the Jews. We don’t know what those people were capable of. Dont make it about Jews.

  3. Robert says:

    We lost an entire Generation, not only of Jews, but Americans, Canadians, British, French, Russians, Ukranians, Belgians, Chinese and yes, even Germans, Italians, and Japanese, and every other nationality, race, creed, and color to the insanity of Naziism and Hitler. Those who didn’t die were changed forever. I pray to G-d that we don’t lose another generation to a different evil… that is very much the same. Irrational hatred.

    Robert

  4. Chris L. says:

    Words cannot express my awe of Professor Librescu. His life, his accomplishments, what he endured, his family, then how he died.

    Rest in peace, teacher.

  5. John S says:

    I was in 2 of Dr. Librescu’s classes in the early 90s. He has always been one of my most memorable professors, and I was just thinking about him this past weekend. He was a good man, and a role model. My deepest sympathies to his family.

  6. Mike R. says:

    From Dr. Librescu’s lips came lessons in mechanics, materials and mathematics; from his life, lessons in humanity: quiet dignity, humility in accomplishment, and flinty resolve in the face of mortal terror. As one of his generation’s survivors, his legacy is survivors from another generation. By the loss of Liviu Librescu we are all diminished. But by the final lesson he taught in that Virginia Tech classroom, we are all elevated.

  7. Adrian, that flag, and the posts below, were about all the victims of Tech.

    But this post is about a Holocaust survivor, and mentions the Jews who were murdered because they were Jews. Not because they were victims of a war. They were victims of a deliberate attempt by the government of Germany, with the willing complicity of much of Europe, to annihilate the Jews. That’s not the same as being victims of war.

    The Holocaust WAS about Jews. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong.

    And this is a Jewish blog. I write about Jewish issues. Kindly do not tell me what I can and cannot write about.

  8. Sue C says:

    This is the most moving story I have ever heard. A great and good man whose loss diminishes us all while the manner of his going enriches us.

    May he always be remembered and may he rest in peace.

  9. Although it is true that Hitler had a special hatred for Jews, his final solution was also trying to eradicate Catholics, Gypsies, communists, homosexuals, and many other groups. The death camps killed 11 million people, 6 million of whom were Jews.

    Which points out an even greater tragedy: While Jews (rightly) teach their children to never forget, the rest of the world has almost completely forgotten the 5 million of their people that Hitler murdered at the same time.

  10. Paul T says:

    Liviu Librescu is a Romanian name, I was very disappointed in seeing american media reporting him as Israeli (for quick reference see our presidents name which is Basescu). He was born in Romania, he had a 100% Romanian name, but I guess one can’t expect much objectivity from most of the american media in regards to this. I am glad at least your page is truthful: “Liviu Librescu was a Romanian Jew who survived the Holocaust”. And Holocaust was NOT only about the Jews, it was about the so called ‘impure races’ which included Jews but not only them. We all should be grateful it didn’t go Hitler’s way :)

  11. Simona says:

    Dumnezeu sa-l odihneasca in pace !

  12. Tatterdemalian says:

    There is a difference between executing an enemy sworn to kill you, and executing a loyal friend who thought he was working with you to build a better world.

    The five million Communists who died in the camps were enemies of Germany, not just of Hitler; the actions of their comrades following WWII have proven this beyond all possible doubt. The Jews executed in the camps, on the other hand, were not guilty of trying to overthrow either the Third Reich nor the Weimar Republic. They did not repeatedly try to destroy Germany from within or without, as the Communists were sworn to do, and in fact the majority worked diligently to support the German infrastructure, even after Hitler began rounding them up and herding them into the camps.

    They were not killed for being traitors, but for being Jews. Only the farthest gone in leftist moral equivallence can see no distinction between the two.

  13. If Librescu is one of the Jews that Hitler missed, just imagine the kinds of men and women we lost.

    In Stan Ulam’s autobiography, Adventures of a Mathematician, you read a lot of little stories like this: “Soandso was a physicist. He had a beautiful sister, a classical scholar, whom I worshipped when I was a young man. Their whole family died in Auschwitz.” “Wossname was a mathematician and a fine cellist. We used to have impromptu concerts at his house. He was shot by the Nazis while trying to escape in 1944.”

    When thinking of the Holocaust, I find that the evil shocks me less than the stupidity. Hitler wanted Germany to be great, so he cut the heart from its greatness. Stupid, stupid!

  14. M. Faulhaber says:

    Profesor Librescu was all that a parent could want in a son–brilliant, brave and unselfish.

    May his spirit live on in the lives of those that he touched.

  15. It’s a pity Librescu seems to have been the only one with enough courage to fight back against Cho. If more had joined him, the outcome might have been different.

  16. Ted says:

    One thing that bothered me in all this coverage — and this may be what you were getting at — is how little of the coverage of Librescu mentioned that he was a citizen of Israel.

    And I wonder if this stems from a reluctance on the part of the news media to portray any Israeli in a positive light, much less a heroic one.

  17. J. Lichty says:

    To all of you who are attempting to lump in the other unfortunate souls with the Jews – stop it. Many Nazi’s died too because of Nazi aggression. People die in war but Catholics were not systematically murdered by the death machine an in fact many were complicit in the machine. Communists were not hounded, dehumanized, stripped of all human dignity, and to the extent they were it is not because of their “race.”

    Why is it so hard for some gentiles like Adrian to even grant us the uniqueness of our own horrors. It is either out of ignorance or hate (the same tactic the deniers use – “some Jews died in the war like all other groups.”

    If you do anything but count the superficial number of dead you will learn that non-jewish inmates at camps (with the possible exception of Roma) were treated better than Jews, survived at much higher rates, were not by and large imprisoned or killed because of how they were born but because of some offense, no matter how trumped was pinned on them.

    Get used to it. It was the Jews, and only the Jews who were targeted for extermination as a whole nation – every man, woman and child.

    In fact, a tell tale sign of the uniqueness of the holocaust as to jews is the fact that even today, the Jewish state is singled out for the opprobrium. Conincidence – I doubt it.

    There are many good resources out there that chronicles the holocaust as a jewish event. Yes others are destroyed when anti-semites are ruled by their hate, but they are secondary to the real objects.

  18. Houston says:

    He is truly a remarkable man. One I wish I had the privilege of meeting.

    As I commented on Laurence’s site, I can only hope that if I were faced with the same decision, that I could make a heroic and honorable choice such as the professor did.

    He didn’t do what was easy, he did what was right. That is the mark of a hero.

  19. Adrian says:

    “But I found myself thinking: If Librescu is one of the Jews that Hitler missed, just imagine the kinds of men and women we lost.”
    To J. Lichty and Meryl Yourish:
    None of my words implies that the holocaust was about Jews or not. I am from Europe too and a romanian also like Librescu and i know one or two things about what happened in WWII. What i meant to say it was about this unfortunate event. This has nothing to do with Jews as well as it has nothing to do with the fact that the murderer was a South Coreean or the victims were blacks, whites, asians and so on. All of them were people, equal. It is sad that it happened. It has nothing to do with the fact that Librescu was a Jew, i am not a jew and i like to belive that i would’ve done the same, as well as many other readers. A heroic act has nothing to do with your nationality, color of skin, gender or race, its all about who you are as a person, as a human being, it is in your character.

    I was not trying to judge or insult anybody, it just doesn’t seem fair to mention that he was a jew and bring him in slave because of it.

  20. Paul T says:

    Just to bring everyone in peace, he was a Jew, he was Romanian by birth (and the fact that he got his advanced degrees in Romania should tell you that Jews were not so hated in Europe as you think) and Israeli by ‘adoption’ :) But most of all he was a hero.

  21. Bert says:

    Professor Librescu was a hero in every sense of the word. I’m sure that his holocaust experiences taught him the value of life and as such, he probably thought, “I’ve lived a full life. These kids are just starting theirs. I’m going to give mine so that they can have theirs”.

  22. Stan says:

    This message I have sent to CNN.
    after I read the CNN description of Israeli hero on CNN

    http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2007/virginiatech.shootings/victims/profiles/liviu.librescu.html

    “In you eulogy of Liviu Libresku you omit the fact that he was an Israeli. He loved Israel and considered himself to be an Israeli ambassador to America. Please add the missing information. Thank you.”

    People, please ask CNN to correct this

  23. xerf says:

    Stan,

    how do you know “he[…]considered himself to be an Israeli ambassador to America” ? Did he tell you that ?

    It also happens that professors are better paid in USA and they better chances and a better academic environment to develop a career. Ths is the reason why in the USA you can find university professors from all over the world. In fact many of the engineering professors were not born in USA. Could that be the reason for which he had lived in Israel for 7 years only?

    Respect for the humanity of the Prof. Librescu, no matter the place where he was born, where he lived or his religion.

  24. Stan says:

    xerf. yes he said that. No one denies America’s is one of the best places for Academics as well as other profesionals. Yet he was an Israeli. All his family is in Israel. He saved Jews and Goim alike. But why omit that he is an Israeli? No loss of respect there..

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