17 September 2011

Thimble 54 - Lachto Drom


The girl in this photo was nine years old when she stared out at the world from a train. Two months later, in 1944, she would be gassed at Auschwitz. She's only one death in millions, a face without a name, but her haunting expression, caught on film, would become famous as an icon for all the Jewish children who died in the holocaust... except she wasn't Jewish. She was Romani - a Gypsy.

She would have to wait until 1994 for a Dutch Journalist, Aad Wagenaar, to identify her. A survivor from that terrible journey remembered her name; her mother had called her back from looking out the train. Her name was Settela Steinbach and she was born in the Netherlands.
'Latcho Drom is an ancient expression in the Gypsy language that means "Bon Voyage", "Safe Journey". It's been used in time immemorial as an expression of good wishes by this migrant people. When a Gypsy family would leave from one location, in route to another, in search of a better living, those staying behind would simply say Latcho Drom, "have a safe journey"
Quote From here
Lachta Drom... Safe Journey.

Settela's train trip was so completely the opposite of safe that it is mind-boggling. She was travelling on a journey most of us couldn't begin to, or want to, imagine. Many of the Romani children who went Auschwitz-Birkenau were used for the medical experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele. But why did it take so long for anyone to realise she was Roma and not Jewish?

'It was assumed she was Jewish, as for many years there was little attention paid to the genocide of the 400,000 Roma that were murdered by the Germans ...'


"Little attention paid to the genocide..."

Such a simple phrase for such an overwhelming and unbearable truth.

The Nazis' official title for it was, "Combating the Gypsy Nuisance" and it almost seems as if the world thought remembering those dead was a nuisance as well. It took decades of campaigning before an official day dedicated to those who died was declared in 2009. August 2 was chosen for International Roma Holocaust Day because it was on the night of August 2-3 that 2,897 Sinti and Romani men, women, and children were killed in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau when the camp was liquidated. No more Lachto Drom, no more safe journeys...

O the black bird went into my heart and stole it.
Here I live in auschtwitz
here in auschtwitz I'm hungry,
there isn't a piece of bread to eat.
there isn't nothing to eat here
its all my bad luck.
at one time I had my home.
I'm so hungry I could kill.
oh oh Jesus oh oh

Sung by Romani holocaust survivor Margita Makulov√°.

Movie clip from the docu-movie Lachto Drom

How do you travel on from such appalling memories? It is not enough to move forward from guilt. It is not enough to move forward in anger. We need to move forward because we have learnt from the past, recognising the flaws of humanity, and are ready to create a better future. Guilt is as poisonous as anger, they may spur you into starting a journey, but to travel with them for a lifetime destroys all joy and pleasure.

Embrace the horror and anger, bitterness and grief. Don't turn away from accepting your part in any tragedy, no matter how bad guilt may make you feel. Accept your part in the world's past, but don't stay there - you have to travel on! There's no point in learning lessons if you don't use them. Wish each other Lachto Drom, good luck, safe journeys, and then make that your intention - safety and goodness for everyone.

* With many thanks to Morgan,
who blogs with an amazing passion on
Lolo Diklo,
for helping me with links and photo.



  1. When will they learn that peace is the way?

  2. I think we tend to be a herd animal. It takes a LOT to move a herd in another direction.Maybe all we can hope is that if enough of us start pulling towards peace we can turn the herd mentality.

    Thanks for stopping by, Gemel.


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Can one everyday person really make a difference and change the world? Isn't that a bit like trying to empty the ocean with a thimble?

Maybe... but what if you got everyone to help you?
What if we bailed with a billion thimbles?

These are my Thimblefuls for Peace... I hope they make you think.