A large question on the Eisler side of the family has always been “When did Papa stop being Jewish?” Such a strange way to phrase the complex ideas behind the question and yet it was said just that way. Really there are two questions to be asked – “Why?” and “When?”. Discovering the Georg Gaugusch book has settled the “When?”, but not the “Why?”.
On October 3, 1894 Paul Josef Martin Eisler officially left the Jewish faith and entered the Roman Catholic faith. And he did so by baptism here at Pfarrkirche Schottenfeld in Vienna.
Cultures all over the world have asked, “can you ‘leave’ what you are born to?” Or do you adopt something to compliment what you were born to? How can you forget what you already know, what you were raised with? Traditions that run deep around philosophy, food, holidays, celebrations and death cannot be left behind with completing a government Declaration of Leaving the Jewish Faith and having your name entered into an index as completed. Beyond the motivations of Philosophy and Ideology, what were the anti-Semitic experiences the brothers encountered? I cannot pretend to know their experiences or reasons, but each brother did choose.
It is interesting to look at the pages of the Eisler family and see that a slow shift in religious orientation was made. The whole family did not convert as a group, but people made choices over decades. One of the first to do so in Paul’s immediate family was his older brother Alexander Eduard Eisler. In June of 1889 as a sixteen year old he “left” Judaism and entered Roman Catholicism at Pfarrkirche Schottenfeld. For Alexander this was a formal beginning to his life’s academic passion and he went on to earn his doctorate in Philosophy. In 1907 his dissertation Das Veto der katholischen Staaten bei der Papstwahl seit dem Ende des 16. Jahrhunderts was published. This historical work on the Papal Conclave is still maintained on shelves in over 30 research libraries around the world.
Paul made his conversion to Catholicism in 1894 as a nineteen year old young man. I have never found any reference he might have made for his religious change. In my unrestrained speculation I would say his motivation lay in music and his love for the Organ. This large complex instrument cannot be carried from place to place like so many other instruments, but is installed in buildings and most often found in churches. Paul’s instruments were the piano, cello and organ and his compositions, scores and arrangements can also be found in research libraries all over the world.