Overview (Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Biography Series)
Fania Fénelon tells her story of terror and survival at Auschwitz in Playing for Time. In German-occupied Paris, she had been a nightclub singer, well trained in both classical and popular music. The Nazis arrested her for aiding the French Resistance in 1943. Once they found out that her father, Jules Goldstein, was a Jew, they shipped her to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the combination work camp and death factory in occupied Poland. She survived the journey and the initial selection of deportees for the gas chambers, along with her friend Clara, and was recognized at the camp as a well-known musician. She had little choice but to audition by singing arias from Madam Butterfly, and she was assigned to the orchestra.
The Auschwitz women’s orchestra was made up of some forty inmates. Within the camp, they had a special position, with adequate clothing, shelter, and toilet privileges. Yet their food was the same as that of the regular prisoners, and they were subject to the same arbitrary roll calls, beatings, and abuse. They knew that if they did not please their Schutzstaffel (SS) masters, they might at any time be “selected” for extermination. To preserve their lofty position, the “orchestra girls” had to play march music for the work gangs as they trudged to and from their barracks, “welcome” tunes as new trainloads of prisoners arrived, and various concerts for the diversion of the SS officers who ran the camp. The prisoners in...
(The entire section is 1406 words.)
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