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Fania Fénelon (1908–1983)

Author of Playing for Time

Includes the names: Fania Fenelon, Fania Fénelon, Fenelon Fania R2H2, Fania Fénelon

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Fania Fénelon, née Goldstein, was born in Paris, the daughter of Jules Goldstein, a Jewish engineer who had emigrated from Russia or Poland, and his French Catholic wife Marie. She attended the Conservatoire de Paris, where she won first prize in piano, despite her diminutive size and very small hands. She also worked nights as a singer in Parisian bars. An early marriage to Silvio Perla, a Swiss athlete, ended in divorce. During World War II, she smuggled information to the French Resistance, until being arrested and deported in 1943 to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. There she was a member of the all-female orchestra that played for the Germans and for the prisoners as they went out to forced labor. She was then sent to Bergen-Belsen, where she survived to be liberated in 1945. Under the pseudonym of "Fania Fénelon," which she adopted after the war, she became a well known cabaret singer and entertainer. In 1973-75, with Marcelle Routier, she wrote Sursis pour l'orchestre (English translation, Playing for Time), a novel-memoir about her Holocaust experiences, based on the diary she kept at the time. It was adapted by Arthur Miller as a stage play and in 1980 as a television movie.
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