Playing For Time is a 1980 CBS television film, written by Arthur Miller and Fania Fénelon, based on Fénelon's autobiography, The Musicians of Auschwitz. Vanessa Redgrave stars as acclaimed musician Fania Fénelon.
Playing For Time was based on Fénelon's experience as a female prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp, where she and a group of classical musicians were spared in return for performing music for their captors. The film was also adapted as a play by Arthur Miller.
Fénelon, a Jewish singer-pianist, is sent with other prisoners to the Auschwitz concentration camp in a crowded train during World War II. After having their belongings and clothes taken and their hair cut short, the prisoners are processed and enter the camp. Fénelon is recognized as being a famous musician and she finds that she will be able to avoid hard manual labor and survive longer by becoming a member of the prison's female orchestra.
In the process, she strikes up a close relationship with Alma Rosé, the musical group's leader, as well as the other members of the band. Realizing that the musicians get better treatment than other prisoners, Fania convinces the guards and members of the orchestra that another prisoner she had befriended, Marianne, is actually a talented singer. Although Marianne performs poorly at her audition, she is allowed to join the orchestra. Playing for the Nazis, however, robs the women of much of their dignity and most of them often questioned whether remaining alive was worth the abuse they constantly suffer.