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Playing For Time Paperback – September 1, 1997

4.4 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French

From the Back Cover

In 1943, Fania Fenelon was a Paris cabaret singer, a secret member of the Resistance, and a Jew. Captured by the Nazis, she was sent to Auschwitz, and later, Bergen-Belsen. With unnerving clarity and an astonishing ability to find humor where only despair should prevail, the author charts her eleven months as one of "the orchestra girls"; writes of the loves, the laughter, hatreds, jealousies, and tensions that racked this privileged group whose only hope of survival was to make music.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Syracuse University Press; New edition edition (September 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815604947
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815604945
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #369,738 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Playing for Time, a grade-A book by Fania Fenelon, is a document not only about the Holocaust, but one that goes deeper: it shows how music brought redemption of spirit in the Hell of Hells. When Fania and her friend are brought to the death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, she is recognized by a girl in the camp's orchestra as a Parisian caberet singer. She is accepted in to the orchestra, where she is forced to sing the opera Madame Butterfly for the SS. Fania does not let the hardships of the camp take over her spirit, though. She uses music as a weapon, and, as an orchestrator as well as singer for the group, she orchestrates marches by Jews and anti-Nazis right under the noses of her captors, who never catch on. Fania's love of music allows her to survive Auschwitz, and when she is sent with the rest of the "Orchestra Girls" to Bergen-Belsen near the end of the war, her passion for life pulls her through a severe case of typhus. One day she learns that the Nazis are going to shoot the prisoners of Bergen-Belsen at 3:00 that afternoon. The English arrive at the camp at 11:00 that same morning. Fania just barely survived the war, and afterwards she returned to Paris and started again as a caberet singer. She died of cancer in her hometown in 1983. Playing for Time teaches us many things. It teaches us that the human spirit cannot be killed. It teaches us that good always wins over evil. And it teaches us that if you have a love, stick to it. One day it might just save your life.
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I enjoyed reading this book, even though the content is difficult to comprehend with all of the horrors of Auschwitz/Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen. According to several orchestra members, a good portion of Fania's "memoirs" is inaccurate, which I think is a shame. This was brought to light in the book Alma Rose: From Vienna to Auschwitz. I would recommend reading both Playing for Time and Alma Rose: From Vienna to Auschwitz to get a better picture of what life was like for the orchestra. I was also very disappointed to read Fania's degrading names she used for the Polish prisoners, which sadly shows her racist views.
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By A Customer on January 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is an absolutely incredible book. An already powerful story it is taken to a new level by the constant reminder that this is first hand experience.
It is perfect for nearly anyone, the musician will relate to the music, the historian to the accuracy and the avid reader will simply latch on and be unable to let go.
It brought tears to my eyes.
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Format: Paperback
Fenelon's complete disregard for facts makes this book a very subjective interpretation of her experiences not a true account of events. Her comments and descriptions of inmates seem filled with contempt and hatred for all, particularly for Poles, who in the author's mind, against all logic were the same as Germans (she always mentions them side by side and often mixes up in context). She seems to ignore crucial elements of the context of Auschwitz's reality, for example the fact that Jews were not the only victims dying the exact same death in the German concentration camps, non-Jewish Poles being the most glaring example. In her description all Poles in her story are "fat, ugly, and devoid of any intelligence." She describes them as mindless animals oriented mainly to torture her. Some descriptions seem pathological, for example her insistence on portraying Polish women as homosexual deviates. Her refusal to observe beyond her limited direct surroundings takes away a chance for the reader to get a truly deep glimpse into the horror of the German plans to systematically annihilate roughly 50 million Slavs, in addition to most of the minorities such as Jews.Read more ›
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This it the true story of French singer and piano player Fania Fenelon. She is 1/2 Jewish and when the Nazi's occupied Paris they sent her to Auschwitz. Her fame follows here there and she is made to serve in the women's orchestra, which plays for Dr. Mengele. She comes to discover what sincere humanity is while there. She is eventually liberated by the Russians while on her deathbed from typhus. This seems to be the standard Auschwitz fare.
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I bought this book years ago, but since no one has ever reviewed it, I figured I would give it a go. My first exposure to the Holocaust was watching the made for TV film PLAYING FOR TIME at the age of nine years old when it aired on HBO. The movie was so haunting that it has stayed with me for thirty years and led to me trying to get my hands on the copy of the DVD for years. When I found it available I bought the book as well. The book isn't necessarily well written, but because it's real and from the heart it kind of places you in the moment as though you were truly there. She tells the story from her point of view entirely and you also have to realize that it is biased. Her personality does come shining through in the story and although she does have a good heart she is a bit self centered and tends to glorify herself a bit. A lot of the survivors have disputed her account, and that's very realistic as well, because if you told a story about your workplace including all the good and bad that you saw in others from your perspective, they wouldn't agree with it. And they'd probably have a different, less flattering perspective about you, too. I've done a lot of writing without saying what the story is about...basically, Fania Fenelon is living in Paris as somewhat of a B celebrity as a popular singer in nightclubs. Although she is half Jewish, she is non practicing and has never identified herself as Jewish until she is caught working with the French Underground. Suddenly nothing but her ethnicity matters and she's shipped to Auschwitz where she meets another woman, Clara, who has found herself in similar circumstances.Read more ›
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