nikaboyce 5:18pm, 17 April 2007
Professor Liviu Librescu

International Herald Tribune

JERUSALEM: A 76-year-old lecturer shot to death trying to save his students from the Virginia Tech assailant was a Holocaust survivor who later escaped to Israel from Communist Romania, his son said Tuesday.

Relatives said Liviu Librescu, an internationally respected aeronautics engineer and a lecturer at the school for 20 years, saved the lives of several students by barricading his classroom door before he was gunned down in Monday's massacre, which coincided with Israel's Holocaust remembrance day.

Librescu' students sent e-mails recounting the last moments of their teacher's life to his wife, Marlena, his son, Joe, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

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

The gunman, identified as 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui, an English major and native of South Korea, killed 32 people before committing suicide, officials said, in what was the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.

Librescu had known hardship since childhood.

When Romania joined forces with Nazi Germany in World War II, he was first interned in a labor camp in Transnistria and then deported along with his family and thousands of other Jews to a central ghetto in the city of Focsani, his son said. According to a report compiled by the Romanian government in 2004, between 280,000 and 380,000 Jews were killed by Romania's Nazi-allied regime during the war.

As a successful engineer under the postwar Communist government, Librescu found work at Romania's aerospace agency. But his career was stymied in the 1970s because he refused to swear allegiance to the regime, his son said, and he was later fired when he requested permission to move to Israel.

After years of government refusal, according to his son, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin personally intervened to get the family an emigration permit. They moved to Israel in 1978.

Librescu left Israel for Virginia in 1985 for a sabbatical year, but eventually made the move permanent, said Joe Librescu, who himself studied at Virginia Tech from 1989 to 1994.

In Romania, the academic community mourned Librescu's death.

"It is a great loss," said Ecaterina Andronescu, rector of the Polytechnic University in Bucharest, where Librescu graduated in 1953. "We have immense consideration for the way he reacted and defended his students with his life."

At the Polytechnic University, where Librescu received an honorary degree in 2000, his picture was placed on a table, a candle was lit, and people lay flowers nearby.

"We remember him as a great specialist in aeronautics. He left behind hundreds of prestigious papers," said one of the professors, Nicolae Serban Tomescu.

Librescu published extensively and received numerous awards for his work.

"His work was his life in a sense," Joe Librescu said.


AP correspondent Alexandru Alexe in Bucharest contributed to this article.
rockbeglam 15 years ago
I believe that he died a purposeful death. He saved the lives of his student.

jakerome 15 years ago
I met Prof. Librescu nearly a year ago at a conference, and introduced by a close friend of mine from work who had Prof. Librescu for 4 classes. He was very engaging, well-known & well-liked by all. He will be sadly missed at the conference this year, which is scheduled for next week.

I had started a group called "6 Million People" last week as a sort of tribute to the victims of the Holocaust just last week. Prof. Librescu's death reminds us yet again of that horrible tragedy. That he survived the Holocaust was a miracle, and his survival let him save his students yesterday. Rest in peace, you will be missed.
forweims 15 years ago
We will never understand the why behind what has happened. We can only hope that, somehow, we find the strength to continue through the courage shown by these victims. Humanity is good. Humanity is kind. The senseless, brutal acts of some will not remove the overwhelming goodnees of most. The life of Mr. Librescu shows us that the human spirit can overcome man's worst atrocities and still allow us to step forward and love those around us. His life is honored by those he saved and in them his life continues. Our sense of normal will be forever changed, but we will find that new normal and continue our lives by honoring those we lost, one step at a time, one day at a time.

My heart and prayers go out to all who lost their loved ones. May you have the courage to once again find peace.
Roy. M. Posted 15 years ago. Edited by Roy. M. (member) 15 years ago
16th of April, the day of the shooting, was also the Remembrance day for The Holocaust and Heroism here in Israel. Ironically, Librescu died on this very day. I don't know him personally (or anyone at Virginia Tech for that matter -- I don't live in the U.S.), but it sounds like he was a great man.
nikaboyce 15 years ago
Jake: thank you for the first-person info.
Groups Beta