Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Liviu Librescu, Virginia Tech, and Yom HaShoah

Remembering a Holocaust survivor who died saving his students

Print Email
Liviu Librescu.(Stetson)

Over the weekend, the Times ran a story about the efforts by police departments around the country to change the way citizens prepare and react to mass attacks like the string of heinous shootings over the last few years.

The essence of the tactic is this: Be active. One incident that helped clarify the benefit of this policy was the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, a rampage during which 32 students and teachers were killed.

“We used to sit outside and set up a perimeter and wait for the SWAT team to get there,” said Michael Dirden, an executive assistant chief of the Houston Police Department. “Now it’s a recognition that time is of the essence and those initial responders have to go in,” he said, adding that since the Virginia Tech University shooting in 2007, the department has been training first responders to move in on their own when they encounter active gunfire.

Research on mass shootings over the last decade has bolstered the idea that people at the scene of an attack have a better chance of survival if they take an active stance rather than waiting to be rescued by the police, who in many cases cannot get there fast enough to prevent the loss of life.

The article mentions Professor Liviu Librescu, a Romanian Holocaust survivor, who after hearing the gunfire told his students to flee and jump out of the second story window, rather than lie still and wait for law enforcement to intervene. As the shooter entered classroom, Librescu, who was 76 at the time, barred the door while many of the students escaped. Librescu was killed by the shooter. The date was April 16, 2007; Yom HaShoah on the Jewish calendar.

The article about adapting tactics in the face of irrational, evil violence speaks to a division among the greater lessons of the Holocaust. For some–especially in Israel and especially on the year during which we mark the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising–one of the lessons of the Holocaust is to never be passive when someone who means you harm appears. It may be cavalier to connect Librescu’s heroic act and sacrifice to his experiences in World War II or his years in Israel, I can’t help but link them.

Another lesson has to do with stubbing out hate, fighting anti-Semitism, using education to efface racism, and promoting tolerance. For whatever reason, it remains difficult to take both of these lessons together. It shouldn’t be that way.

In Shift, Police Advise Taking an Active Role to Counter Mass Attacks [NYT]

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Liviu Librescu, Virginia Tech, and Yom HaShoah

Remembering a Holocaust survivor who died saving his students

More on Tablet:

Wolf Blitzer Explores His Jewish Roots

By David Meir Grossman — CNN host visits Yad Vashem and Auschwitz for the network’s ‘Roots’ series