How did Fania feel about playing music in that situation?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Naturally, I think that Fania Fenelon's narrative is one where the ability to possess musical talent in the horrors of the concentration camp is a complex one.  Certainly, Fenelon makes it clear that her ability to play music was a reminder of her humanity.  She had devoted her life to her craft, and at this rather cruel turn of events, it is this craft that keeps her alive.  She is en route to being placed in the gas chambers.  Yet, it is because she is recognized for her musical talent that she is spared.  At the same time, the reminder of her humanity does not blind her to the dehumanization that envelops her.  Infact, one could argue that her musical talent preserves her ability to live, but she sees much worse elements of humanity around her.  There is a lack of solidarity amongst the prisoners, the victims.  Fenelon brings out how different classifications of victims resent one another.  In this, there is not a unifying force against the Nazi oppressors, but rather a perpetuation of the dehumanization that the Nazis perpetrate.  Fenelon recognizes that her ability to play music and perform is what is enabling her to live, but it does not obscure her from the painful condition in which life envelops in the camp.  It is this complexity where the notion of playing music is "playing for time," continuing artistic expression and consciousness without a firm notion of what will result.  In this, her playing of music is ambivalent, where happiness of life is shaded significantly by the condition of where she lives and what is forced to endure.


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