Image: Liviu Librescu
AP file
Romanian-born lecturer Liviu Librescu tried to barricade the door of his classrom to keep the gunman who killed him away from students.
updated 9/27/2007 3:39:58 PM ET 2007-09-27T19:39:58

The governor has asked President Bush to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously to a Holocaust survivor who died trying to save his students during the mass killings at Virginia Tech.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine made the request this week on behalf of Liviu Librescu, one of five faculty members slain as a student gunman killed 32 people and committed suicide April 16 on the Blacksburg campus.

"Liviu Librescu gravitated towards freedom: freedom from persecution, intolerance, and finally, from oppression," Kaine said in a letter to Bush dated Tuesday and released Thursday. "His courage through adversity speaks volumes."

Students have said Librescu, a 76-year-old aeronautics engineer and lecturer at Virginia Tech for 20 years, tried to barricade the door of his classroom to keep the gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, out. The students were able to jump out second-story windows to safety.

"Liviu Librescu's sacrifice of his own life allowed his students the freedom to live theirs," Kaine said in the letter.

University spokesman Larry Hincker said the school commends the governor "for this noble and most fitting nomination."

"I believe and everyone I have spoken with here would consider Dr. Librescu a genuine hero," Hincker said.

Started at Virginia Tech in 1985
When his native Romania joined forces with Nazi Germany in World War II, Librescu was imprisoned in a labor camp, and then sent along with his family and thousands of other Jews to a ghetto in the city of Focsani. Hundreds of thousands of Romanian Jews were killed during the war.

Kaine said Librescu was a "highly respected and promising researcher" in aeronautical engineering under Romania's postwar Communist government, but when he requested permission to emigrate to Israel he was denied the opportunity and fired.

He continued studying until he was granted entry to Israel in 1979, where he taught at a university, Kaine said. In 1985, he took a position teaching at Virginia Tech.

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