Kafka archive should go to Israel, Swiss court rules

Swiss court rules that archive of renowned Jewish writer Franz Kafka must be handed over to Israel, ending a decade-long dispute.

Cnaan Liphshiz, JTA,

Books in the National Library of Israel
Books in the National Library of Israel
Yaakov Naumi/Flash 90

A Swiss court ruled that the archive of the renowned Jewish writer Franz Kafka must be handed over to Israel, ending a decade-long dispute.

The Zurich District Court upheld on Wednesday several Israeli verdicts that over the course of the years stated that the manuscripts by the Jewish author from Prague belong to the National Library of Israel, the Associated Press reported.

Following the ruling, a number of safe deposit boxes kept in the vaults of the UBS bank in Zurich may be opened and their contents sent to Jerusalem.

The legal dispute was between the State of Israel and the family of the late Esther Hoffe, who was in possession of the material partially located in Israel and partially in Switzerland.

Hoffe was the secretary of Max Brod, a close friend of Kafka. In 1924 Kafka, at the point of death, entrusted his archive — including drafts, note, letters and drawings — to Brod, asking him to destroy everything.

Brod disobeyed Kafka’s wishes, publishing “The Trial,” “The Castle” and “Amerika” in the late 1920s and 1930s.

When Brod and his wife, Elsa, fled Nazi-occupied Prague for Tel Aviv in 1939, Brod carried all of Kafka’s papers with him in a suitcase.

Brod died childless in 1968, leaving the collection to his secretary with the instructions that she donate the collection to a public institution, if not in life, then immediately following her death. Kafka’s friend noted Israel’s National Library at the top of his list of suggested public institutions.




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