Israeli Heir: More Kafka Works Stashed in Swiss Vault

New information likely to affect ongoing suit over Kafka archives by the National Library in Jerusalem.

Parts of Franz Kafka's literary estate are being kept in a safe in a Zurich bank, and they too are owned by Chava Hoffe, the German weekly Die Zeit reported Saturday.

This new information is likely to affect an ongoing suit by the National Library in Jerusalem against Hoffe. The library is demanding Hoffe hand over the Kafka archives, which she inherited from her mother Esther Hoffe, the secretary of Kafka's friend Max Brod.

Although no one but the Hoffe family appears to know the exact contents of the Zurich safe, Die Zeit quoted sources who said it contains several pages from "Letter to my father," a seminal text Kafka wrote to his father in 1919, which is considered a literary and psychoanalytical milestone.

The safe is also said to contain some drawings by Kafka, as well as Brod's personal diaries, which may contain hitherto unknown information on Kafka's private life and on the two men's friendship.

As reported in Haaretz earlier this month, Hoffe's lawyers gave the keys to her Israeli safes to neutral court-appointed executors, after an exhaustive legal battle. The five safes are located in banks in Tel Aviv, but now the Zurich safe is apparently going to enter the dispute as well. The executors are supposed to examine the contents of the safes and advise the court, so it can decide whether the Hoffe family or the State of Israel owns the archives.

The Die Zeit report includes a letter by Brod, stating he gave the Kafka archives to Esther Hoffe as early as 1945. This would mean the state's claim to the archives is unfounded, the newspaper said.

According to the report, Brod himself placed the documents in the Zurich safe. Previously, they had been held by his friend, Haaretz founder Zalman Schocken. Esther Hoffe auctioned off some of the papers in the Zurich safe, and her daughter now wants to sell the rest of the archives to Germany.

Jerusalem National Library attorney Meir Heller said the library has no knowledge of the claim that Brod gave the archives to Hoffe in 1945, and said this contradicts statements Brod made in his will and on other occasions.

"The secrecy surrounding the Zurich safe speaks for itself - if the Hoffes are the rightful owners, what do they have to hide?" the lawyer asked.