EHRENFELS, Umar Rolf, Baron von (born as Rolf Werner Leopold von E.). Prague 28.4.1901 — Neckargemünd 7.2.1980. Austrian (Czech) Anthropologist in India and Germany, converted Muslim (originally Catholic). Son of Christian von E,. Professor of Philosophy, and Emma André. In the twenties lived in Berlin trieng to make a career as author and journalist. In 1926 adopted Islam (Ahmadiyya). From 1832 studied social anthropology at Vienna, Ph.D. 1937 there. First visit to India in 1932-33 and to avoid the Nazi occupation he emigrated in 1938 to Greece and soon to India. Although anti-fascist refugee, he was interned until 1946.. Head of the Department of Anthropology at Madras University from 1949, Professor and Senator there from 1959. Conducted anthropological field-work. In 1961 came as Guest-Professor to University of Heidelberg, from 1962 co-worker at South Asia Institute there. Also field-work in East Africa. Married Ellen Feld, then 1925 Elfriede von Bodmershof, separated because of the Nazi occupation, later married Mireille Abeille, one daughter.
Interested in matrilinear social systems in South India, Assam and East Africa, in position of women in ancient and contemporary Muslim social systems, in Bhakta Marga and Sufism.
Publications: diss. Mutterrecht in Vorderindien. MS. Wien 1937, publ. Mother-right in India. 11+229 p. Hyderabad 1941; “Traces of Matriarchal civilization among the Kolli Malaiyalīs”, JASB 3:9 Letters, 1943, 29-82.
– ‘Ilm-ul-aqwām. 1-2. 1942; Kadar of Cochin. 1952.
– The Light Continent. 1960, German transl. Der lichte Kontinent. 1962; Telugu transl. Kaanti Seema. 1963.
– Innere Entwicklungshilfe. Ethnologische Studien in Südindien. 90 p. 12 pl. Schriftenr. des Südasien-Inst. der Univ. Heidelberg 8. Wb. 1969.
– a number of articles.
Sources: German Scholars on India. 1.; death noted in D.G.K. 1983; long article in Wikipedia.