Conflict

As members of the orchestra, the women had a "special status" within the camp, but were still subjected to the hardships of a death camp and to the unpredictable actions of the SS. According to Fackler, camp authorities used music to deliberately repress and subdue their victims. The women were turned into "musical slaves" who were required to play whenever the SS wanted them to. However, the women were granted a "special status", compared to other prisoners. The women were provided a certain degree of protection from random brutatlity. They were granted "privileges" that helped their survival.

 - a separate, musician-designated block

      - included lodgings for the conductor and a rehearsal room, which came with a conductor's   p   odium and a table for copyists

 - each women had their own bed, which was a luxury, considering most prisoners in Birkenau slept several to a bunk with little or no bedding

 - living conditions were more hygienic than elsewhere

 - regular showers    

 - Separate latrines

 - Not expected to perform any forced labor, apart from musical activities (unlike the members of the Birkenau men's orchestra)

 - Attended roll call inside their blocks

 - Special uniforms

 - Had an oven to keep warm for the winter months, which Rosé acquired by saying she needed to keep the instruments in good condition 

 -  Former inmates claim that they ate the same food rations as the other prisoners; however, even if they were not given substantially bigger rations, they certainly earned additional food from the SS and functionaries for whom they gave private performances 

 - Rose convinced the SS that the orchestra should have to play at the gates when the weather was bad

It is important to remember that as soon as the "musical slaves" had done their duty, their protections were taken away.


Rationale for Orchestra in a Death Camp

Some saw the existnce of music in Auschwitz as a logical extension of the national German passion for music. The SS valued a sense of "civilized" culture and valued the self-image it promoted. The music's pervasive presence in daily life went largely unremarked and unquestioned. Music was considered a vital and thoroughly appropiate part of the camp enterprise(Gilbert, Shirli). It was an opportunity for the SS to deal with their own emotional needs and distract themselves from their own actions. The orchestra provided a way for the SS to construct their behavior within a refined "civilized" paradigm. Writer Karin Orth argued that the construct of decency - an essential component of the SS men's self-perceptions - was primarily a way of legitimizing their acts both to themselves and before the public. 

In addition, some saw the orchestra as expressions of "absurd German precision," or as a desire for an "orderly, properly labeled world." The music was seen as ritual whose enactment held significant personal meaning and value for the SS. The SS in Auschwitz experienced daily life as unrewarding and "dreary" compared to their comrades fighting "real enemies" on the front. It allowed them to enact their superiority in substantial and practical ways, helping them recover a sense of "high purpose and invincibility." As a result of the orchestra, the SS could sustain their morale and self-image. The SS was in need of this solace because they were confronted with physically and emotionally trying tasks (Fackler, Guido). In this regard, the development of "less personal" killings methods such as gassing were partially motivated by concern for the psychological health of the killer. There was concern that the killers "should not stray too far from the path of decency."