Disputed Kafka Estate May Belong to Israel National Library

Max Brod is believed to have left a later will in which he left Kafka's literary estate to the National Library.

Documents indicating that Franz Kafka's literary estate was left to the Israel National Library have recently surfaced, raising suspicion that the two sisters who inherited the estates of Franz Kafka and Max Brod are not, in fact, the legal executors.

One of the sisters, Eva Hoffe, has filed an appeal against a court ruling of two months ago which called for the vaults containing the famous author's manuscripts to be opened.

Hoffe claims that exposing the manuscripts would cause her "huge financial losses" and harm her negotiations over selling the estate to a German literary archive.

The sisters Eva Hoffe and Ruti Wisler keep the two Czech writers' manuscripts in five secret vaults in various Tel Aviv banks. Last month the Tel Aviv Family Court gave the sisters 15 days to reach an arrangement with the state and National Library officials regarding the manuscripts.

Last year the court ordered that the vaults be opened within two weeks and an inventory of their contents be submitted, so that the court could determine whether the material would remain in private hands or be transferred to the National Library or to a literary archive in Germany.

Hoffe's attorney Oded Hacohen writes in the appeal that opening the vaults would "considerably reduce the price Hoffe can charge for the manuscripts."

In addition, it would infringe on the privacy of Kakfa and his close friend Brod, as well as the privacy of Hoffe and her mother Esther, who was Brod's secretary (and thought to have been his partner) for 30 years, he says. Esther Hoffe died two years ago.

Brod's estate executor, attorney Ehud Sol, dismissed Eva Hoffe's claims and demanded the court to enforce its order to open the safes immediately, citing contempt of court.

Sol added that another reason the vaults should be opened is that they might contain documents Hoffe is concealing, which could sway the court's verdict against her. One of these documents could be a later version of Brod's will, appointing another estate executor rather than his secretary Esther Hoffe.

Brod's estate executors submitted to the court this week a letter signed by Brod to his close friend, philosopher and writer Felix Weltsch, naming Weltsch as his estate executor. Brod apparently writes in the letter that he had amended his will to this effect.

Weltsch is the grandfather of actor Eli Bornstein.

"This piece of information is extremely important and corroborates the need to open the vaults without delay," Brod's executors wrote to the court.

Meir Heller, any attorney representing the National Library, said the library was surprised to discover a recent testimony by a noted German Kafka scholar to this effect. "It has been known for years that Brod had written a later will, which was hidden from the National Library," the scholar says. "In this will he appointed Felix Weltsch, his close friend and a dedicated library staff member, as the executor of his estate, and left his literary estate directly to the library."