BERLIN - The four safety deposit boxes in a Zurich bank containing Franz Kafka's manuscripts will be opened this morning, the last phase in one of the great literary mysteries of recent decades.

Armed with an order from the Tel Aviv Family Court, a battery of lawyers and experts in German literary manuscripts will watch as the boxes, registered to Esther Hoffe, the secretary of Hoffa's close friend Max Brod, are opened.

The boxes are believed to contain thousands of manuscripts by Kafka and Brod, including letters, journals, sketches and drawings, some of which have never been published.

The huge collection is estimated to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars - but the monetary value is dwarfed by their literary value. They are expected to shed light on the life of one of the 20th century's greatest writers, who became a legend after his death in 1924, leaving the literary world with many unanswered questions.

The case, which has been ongoing for two years, has seen the heir to the documents, Esther's daughter Eve Hoffe of Tel Aviv, face off against the State of Israel and the National Library in Jerusalem over who actually should have rights to this literary treasure trove.

Hoffe is also expected to be present at the opening of the boxes this morning.

Meanwhile, the Israeli court is expected to rule on Hoffe's petition calling for a gag order on the contents of the box.

Haaretz, which reported on the court case a year ago, has asked the court to allow the documents to be published, citing their public and literary value.

Last week, Hoffe's safety deposit boxes at a number of Tel Aviv banks were also opened by court order.

The delegation of lawyers, who were appointed by the court, include Shmuel Cassuto, Dan Novhari, Dan Zimerman, Ehud Sol and Yossi Ashkenazi. They will convey to the court a precise record of what the boxes contain. The attorneys will be assisted by German literary experts and a manuscript expert.

Then, the judge will decide whether to return the documents to the safety deposit boxes or transfer them to a public archive, to be published for the benefit of future generations.