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Fania Fenelon Dead at 75

December 23, 1983
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Fania Fenelon, the musician who survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and later told the world of having to play in the women’s orchestra there while millions went to their death, during the Holocaust, died of cancer Monday at the age of 75. Her sister-in-law, Madeleine Goldstein, said there would be no funeral because Fenelon donated her body to medical research.

Her book, “Playing for Time,” in which she recounted how the orchestra, conducted by Alma Rose, a niece of Gustav Mahler, gave concerts in 1944 under orders of the SS, was translated into a dozen languages and was also made into a television film in which she was portrayed by British actress Vanessa Redgrave, a militant supporter of the PLO.

Fenelon, an ardent Zionist, campaigned against the CBS-TV film in protest against the insensitivity in casting Redgrave in it. She told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency at the time: “I have nothing against Miss Redgrave’s political opinions but the PLO wants to destroy Israel and the Jewish people and I cannot accept to have this type of person play my life. “Many Jewish organizations in the U.S. also protested casting Redgrave in the role.

Fenelon was born in Paris as Fanny Goldstein. She studied music and after becoming a professional pianist and singer took the professional stage name of Fania Fenelon. She was deported by the Nazis and spent II months playing in Bergen-Belsen.

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