Kafka Manuscripts Allegedly Stolen From Tel Aviv Apartment

Eva Hoffe, one of the sisters who inherited Kafka and Brod's estates from their mother, says her apartment has been broken into three times recently. It is not yet clear which documents have been taken and by whom.

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
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Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

Several documents belonging to Max Brod's estate, which may include Franz Kafka's manuscripts, have been stolen from a Tel Aviv apartment.

Author Franz KafkaCredit: Archive

Eva Hoffe, one of the sisters who inherited Kafka and Brod's estates from their mother, says her apartment has been broken into three times recently. It is not yet clear which documents have been taken and by whom.

The Israel National Library, which some documents indicate is heir to Kakfa's literary estate, is demanding all the documents at Hoffe's disposal immediately.

The library is conducting a legal battle to take over the documents from Hoffe and place them in public archives. National Library sources expressed fears that Kafka's manuscripts had disappeared, but Hoffe's attorney Uri Zfat said "a number of insignificant documents have disappeared."

Hoffe filed a deposition with the Tel Aviv District Court recently, saying her apartment was first broken into in mid-September last year. Then it was allegedly broken into twice last week - on Monday and Wednesday.

Hoffe, 76, said books, letters and musical scores that belonged to Brod, Kafka's close friend and publisher, had been taken. However she admits she does not know exactly what was stolen or what the stolen documents contained.

Brod, who lived in Tel Aviv from 1939, when he came to Israel, until his death in 1968, was a close friend of Hoffe's mother, who worked as his secretary and kept his estate and manuscripts in her apartment.

Two years ago the mother died and left the estate to her daughters. Since then a legal battle has been raging over the estate's real owner and whether it was proper to allow it to be kept in private hands, away from the public eye and in inadequate conditions, or should be moved to an archive.

Matters were further complicated when documents indicating that Kafka's literary estate was left to the National Library surfaced, raising suspicion that the two sisters who inherited the Kafka and Brod estates are not, in fact, the legal executors.

In her deposition earlier this week Hoffe said the first burglar broke the window bars and entered her apartment wearing gloves, but fled when she started shouting. The second burglar, last Monday, broke the door lock and threw books, papers and other objects onto the floor. The third burglar entered the same room and removed documents from Brod's estate, she wrote.

The National Library's attorney, Meir Heller, protested the unbearable ease with which important documents from Brod's estate disappear, while the trial to determine their fate is still ongoing.

"We have warned before that the documents in Hoffe's apartment are not well looked after," he wrote to Hoffe's estate executors. "The National Library repeats its demand to take measures to stop spiriting the literary assets from the apartment and transfer whatever is left to a safe place and ascertain what has been taken," he wrote.

Heller yesterday accused the Hoffe family's estate executor, Shmuel Cassouto, of failing to preserve the documents' integrity. "The National Library sees estate executor Cassouto as the one responsible for the manuscripts' and books' disappearance," Heller said.

Heller is demanding a thorough examination of Hoffe's apartment, saying "it's clear there are considerable manuscripts and literary assts there. It transpires Hoffe did have valuable manuscripts from Brod's estate in her apartment - but they have disappeared, contrary to Cassouto's earlier report that he had checked the apartment and not found what he called 'essential things' in it. We fear Brod's original library, which includes Kafka's books, has vanished. It seems only a police investigation can shed light on what happened."



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