My late father, Monik Yanover, was a sweet and loving man, an eternal optimist and an all around good guy. He was my connection to the world before WW2, to a Poland where Jews constituted an entire civilization, thriving, vibrant, productive, imaginative. I would call him often to ask about this and that part about life in Warsaw or Lodz or his small town of Brzeziny.
This year marks his tenth yahrzeit and I find myself still thinking about him and even talking to him. I know I’m only speaking to his remains inside my head, but it works for me. I know him well enough, you see.
And yet, there’s an entire segment of my father’s history which remained blank throughout my life with him, despite the fact that he was a talkative fellow and a great joke teller. I never got a clear image of his WW2 experience. All I have are murky sketches, and about half a dozen anecdotes, all of them well edited and retold over the years not so much as memories but as presentations. They were the safe stories, with little pain and little fear, little loss and little suffering.
It was the best he could do. I’m an experienced journalist, and I spent many hours trying to get more out of my father. It didn’t work.
In his own way, my father, the former Auschwitz and Dachau prisoner, was a Holocaust denier. Not that he said it didn’t happen, but that he wouldn’t say what happened.
I often wondered if my father had really survived the Holocaust. Is it considered survival when an entire six years of your life remain sealed in your psyche, untouched, undisturbed, un-mourned?
It was the best he could do.