The made-for-television Playing for Time debuted on September 30, 1980. Vanessa Redgrave stars as Fania Fenelon, a Jewish cabaret singer working in Paris at the time of the Nazi invasion. Shipped to the Auschwitz death camp in 1944, Fenelon is certain that she is as doomed as all the other prisoners. But SS camp matron Shirley Knight has other plans: she orders Fenelon and several other female inmates with musical ability to form themselves into a prisoner's orchestra. They are to perform for the benefit of those who are herded into the gas chambers–a "humane" means of easing the condemned into the next world. As much as she despises her work, Fenelon and her fellow musicians continue to play, lest they too be exterminated.