In Memory of a True Hero: Liviu Librescu
By Nicole Hendrix
Fulton, KS


 

The day began as any other day. On Monday, April 16, 2007, Liviu Librescu, put on his business suit and went to work at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

As it was Holocaust Remembrance Day, Liviu Librescu must have taken a moment to reflect on the past on his way to work. He must have thought of the labor camp Transnistria, the central ghetto in the city of Focsani, and, of course, his family.

This brave Holocaust survivor, was lecturing to his students until a gunman entered Norris Hall. "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" (Alexandru).

On this Holocaust Rembrance Day, Liviu Librescu selflessly sacrificed his own life to save his students. At the moment when Liviu Librescu, critically wounded, slumped over too weak to hold the classroom door closed, the past met the present as a survivor of the most heinous genocide in history gave his own life to save his students in the worst mass murder in the history of the United States.

Another voice from the past was extinguished, a voice that could recount our past mistakes as people and as a greater society. It is my guess that if Liviu Librescu were here today, he would say, “I am not a hero, I did what I had to do.”

Dictionary.com defines a hero as a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal (hero). Maybe in order to be a true hero, one must be selfless. Maybe that is truly the importance of the existence of Holocaust survivors. They demonstrate that in the course of a lifetime, they have and will always step up to the challenge of the day. Generally, they are quiet people, who do what is expected of them everyday. They have jobs and families and friends – just like everyone else. They have learned, and can teach to others the value of tolerance of those who are different. If however, a person or a government decides to step on the rights of others, the Holocaust survivor will selflessly stand up for what he or she believes is right- no matter what the consequence might be.

Liviu Librescu leaves us his legacy to tell and retell on each Holocaust Remembrance Day from now until the end of all time. We know how he would tell us to live our lives. He left us his model of honesty, integrity, education, and love of his fellow man. What would he say were the seeds of hate we should avoid?

First, he would tell us to avoid the pitfalls of prejudice and ethnic hatred. The Nazis began their crusade by enacting racially discriminatory laws in Germany and by treating the Jewish citizens as "inferior” ("The Holocaust") . Cho Seung-Hui, the 23 year old gunman in the Virginia Tech rampage, repeatedly suggests his hatred was invoked as he was picked on or otherwise hurt (whether real or imagined) in the writings he sent to NBC (Apuzzo ).

Liviu would also tell us to consider the ill-conceived notion that there is a biological solution for economic and social problems. Hitler’s “ethnic cleansing” labeled Jewish people "unworthy of life," and as a result about 12,000,000 people - about half of them Jews - were murdered by shooting, starvation, disease, poison gas, torture or in horrible medical experiments (Holocaust History Project ). Cho Seung-Hui killed 32 people and wounded at least 17 others in the deadliest one-man shooting rampage in modern U.S. history. He planned these senseless murders as he somehow felt he could get his message across by silencing those he felt were at the root of his hatred. Just as in Hitler’s “Final Solution,” some of Cho’s victims must have been intended victims and others got in his way while carrying out his venomous plan.

Finally, Liviu might say we must all be active participants in our world. To quote Ian Kershaw: "The road to Auschwitz was built by hate, but paved with indifference." (Powell ) Hitler didn't need to turn the man on the street into a fanatical anti-Semite; he merely needed his acquiescence. (Powell) Hitler had social dissidents placed in concentration camps like Dachau in as early as 1933. The German people knew the consequences of speaking against the government. Cho’s peers referred to him as the “Question Mark Kid,” and joked that they were waiting for “him to do something (Breed) .” He was a loner who was full of hatred. His teacher wrote to the department chair and private tutoring was arranged in lieu of class as a result of misbehavior. The department head alerted student affairs, the dean's office, even the campus police, about his behavior yet, at semester’s end, Cho’s classes changed and no one cared. Quiet and acquiescent, he continued to be disdained and ignored on campus while his hatred festered and grew.(Breed )

Liviu Librescu sacrificed his own life for the sake of his students on Holocaust Remembrance Day 2007. His story is a poignant reminder of the strength of character a true hero exhibits. In his memory we must call on all Americans, and human beings, to memorialize Holocaust survivors and victims by passing on their stories to future generations. This is essential to the preservation of our society as we know it. To truly honor those who suffered the Holocaust, we must remain self-aware as people and as a nation; living our lives in an attempt to combat the seeds of hatred both within our society and within ourselves. It is central to acknowledge and overcome our prejudices and show compassion for those who are less fortunate than us, while accepting and trying to understand those who are different. Television and a free media can be powerful assets to preventing future atrocities. As students, we must inculcate these rules into our consciousness, so that we can serve as examples to others. In the end we must follow Liviu Librescu’s example. Every day of our lives we need to do what is right and honor Liviu Librescu, and all of the other Holocaust survivors and victims by “doing what we have to do” as active participants in society.

 

Sources Cited

Alexe, Alexandru, ed. "Holocaust Survivor Among Those Killed At Virginia Tech." International Herald Tribune. 17 Apr. 2007
<http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/04/17/africa/ME-GEN-Israel-US-University-Shooting.php>.

Apuzzo, Matt, ed. "Va. Tech Gunman Sent Material to NBC." Yahoo News. 18 Apr. 2007
<http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070418/ap_on_re_us/virginia_tech_shooting>.

Breed, Allen G., ed. "Professor Had Expelled Gunman From Class." Yahoo News. 18 Apr. 2007
<http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070419/ap_on_re_us/virginia_tech_poet_professor;_ylt=Am0L3IGFNfbvt5DhqWUWT3JH2ocA>.

"Hero." Online Dictionary. 18 Apr. 2007
<http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hero>.


"The Holocaust History Project." Holocaust History. 17 Apr. 2007
<http://www.holocaust-history.org/short-essays/general.shtml>.

"The Holocaust." Holocaust Encyclopedia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 18 Apr. 2007
<http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/article.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10005143>.

Powell, Lawrence N. "The Holocaust and History:." Holocaust Survivors. 16 Apr. 2007, Tulane University.
<http://www.holocaustsurvivors.org/data.show.php?di=record&da=texts&ke=6>.


 

 


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