Report: Opened Safe-deposit Boxes Reveal Unseen Kafka Manuscripts

Among the many manuscripts is one of a well-known short story by the Jewish writer, in the author's own hand writing.

BERLIN - Original manuscripts belonging to Franz Kafka were found in recent days in safe deposit boxes in Tel Aviv and Zurich, Haaretz learned on Monday. Among the many manuscripts is one of a well-known short story by the Jewish writer, in the author's own hand.

Franz Kafka

The literary treasure was discovered during the course of the trial that has been under way during the past two years over the fate of the estate left behind by Max Brod, a close friend of Kafka, who also was his literary executor. The estate, which has been held in a number of safe-deposit boxes in Israel and Switzerland, is under the control of Eva Hoffe, the daughter of Brod's secretary, Esther Hoffe, who died three years ago.

The Tel Aviv Family Court ordered the opening of four safe deposit boxes, and on Monday, in a Zurich bank, a number of Israeli lawyers, of experts on manuscripts and German literature, and a few bank clerks, showed up to verify the contents that had been kept under lock and key for decades.

Attorney Dan Novhari, who represents the manager of Esther Hoffe's estate, attorney Shmulik Cassouto, refused on Monday to offer details on what was found in the safe-deposit boxes. He explained that "commenting at this time on the contents" would serve to "foil the process that is pending in court."

Other sources, however, told Haaretz the boxes contained manuscripts from Kafka. Kafka (1883-1924 ), who lived in Prague and wrote in German, is considered by many literary critics as one of the 20th century's most important authors. Haaretz has also learned that original manuscripts by the author were found in the safe-deposit boxes in Tel Aviv.

Reports of the manuscripts dispel the claims of Hava Hoffe, who insisted in recent months that she did not have any original Kafka manuscripts.

Hoffe was present at court in Zurich on Monday, but she was not permitted into either the bank vault or the conference room in which the contents were examined. Sources at the bank said that Hoffe was visibly angry with those who prevented her from entering the safe deposit room.

A similar incident occurred last week when a number of safe-deposit boxes were opened in Tel Aviv.

Now that the contents of the boxes in Switzerland have been determined, the matter will return to Tel Aviv. The managers of the estate are still waiting for the opening of several more safe-deposit boxes there, something that may reveal additional hidden literary treasures.

When the process is completed, lawyers will present a detailed document to the court, which will then determine if the manuscripts will remain in private hands, or will be bequeathed to either German Literature Archive, in Marbach, Germany, or the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem.

The Tel Aviv Family Court is also due to rule shortly on a petition filed by Hoffe, who asked that the contents of the safe deposit boxes not be revealed publicly. Haaretz, which broke the story of the disputed legacy a year ago, filed an appeal against the gag order.