A Very Square Peg: A Podcast Series about Polymath Robert Eisler. Episode 8: A Very Difficult Man to Kill


Following the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany in March of 1938, Robert Eisler wrote to Oxford asking about being appointed to the Wilde Readership in Comparative and Natural Religion, thereby gaining a way out of Nazi-controlled Europe. On the day after Hitler held a rally at the Heldenplatz in Vienna attended by 200,000 Austrian supporters, a letter came expressing regret that Oxford was unable to offer any assistance. Desperate to find an escape, Eisler wrote to friends all over Europe and America, asking for help. Finally, Gilbert Murray, Eisler’s old friend from his days with the League of Nations, stepped in and secured him the Oxford readership, which he was to have taken in October and held for three years. But on May 20th, Eisler was arrested and spent the next fifteen months in Dachau and Buchenwald, where he would see the things that inspired him to write Man into Wolf. I talk about the events of 1938 with Steven Beller and we also examine the case of a high-ranking S.S. officer who was expelled for plagiarizing Eisler’s work on Jesus. Guests: Steven Beller (independent scholar) Voice of Robert Eisler: Caleb Crawford Additional voices: Brian Evans and Chiara Ridpath Music: “Shibbolet Baseda,” recorded by Elyakum Shapirra and His Israeli Orchestra. Funding provided by the Ohio University Humanities Research Fund and the Ohio University Honors Tutorial College Internship Program. Special thanks to the Warburg Institute. Bibliography and Further Reading Eisler, Robert. Man into Wolf: An Anthropological Interpretation of Sadism, Masochism, and Lycanthropy. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, Ltd., 1951. ———.“The Empiric Basis of Moral Obligation.” Ethics 59, no. 2, part 1 (January 1949): 77-94. Hackett, David A. The Buchenwald Report. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995. Heschel, Susannah. The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008. Jacob, Heinrich E. Six Thousand Years of Bread: Its Holy and Unholy History. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2007. Wachsmann, Nikolaus. KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2015. Follow us on Twitter: @averysquarepeg
Associate Professor Brian Collins is the Drs. Ram and Sushila Gawande Chair in Indian Religion and Philosophy at Ohio University. He can be reached at collinb1@ohio.edu.

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