Overview | What's Missing | Project History
Results | Future Goals | Importance
"Kafka's life and everything he wrote has been so thoroughly researched that every line he wrote is significant."
-- Austrian National Library
The Kafka Project is an independent international investigation into the lost work of the writer Franz Kafka, and the first official search for this missing literary treasure since the 1950s. The last attempt (conducted by Max Brod in Israel and Klaus Wagenbach in Germany) ended when the paper trail led to Silesia, beyond the Berlin Wall and "Iron Curtain" in 1957. With the reunification of Germany and the opening of archives in former Communist Central and Eastern European states in the 1990s, new opportunities for researching Holocaust-era assets have made possible the renewed search for Kafka's missing papers.
Kafka's lost papers consist of 35 letters written to Dora Diamant in 1923 and 1924, and up to 20 notebooks, used for journals, sketches, thoughts and ideas, written during the last year of his life. In addition, 70 letters that Dora Diamant wrote to Max Brod between 1925-1952, which include her last will and testament, were catalogued in the 1980s but are still missing.
January 1997, the Kafka Project was initiated with a consent letter with permission to conduct the official search for Kafka's missing papers on behalf of the Kafka Estate in London. March 1997, a petition was filed with the Bundesbeauftragte, the German government "Foundation for the Political and Historic Resolution of the National Socialist Past. March 1998, the SDSU Research Foundation became the Kafka Project's academic home and non-profit fiscal receiver. June 1-September 30, 1998, a team of volunteers and assistants from the United States, England and Germany researched archives, libraries, civil record offices and cultural institutions. See Resources Report. The Kafka Project makes detailed notes of the Nazi and SED files. September 1998, German State archives classify the project as "official scientific research" and an archivist is assigned to the case. The Berlin Research Final Report is available upon request. In 2023, the KAFKA PROJECT moves from the SDSU CAL Dean's Office to the Department of European Studies.
In 1998 the Kafka Project expanded to include the missing papers of Dora Diamant. Since 1999, we have accessed or found the following: Dora's Comintern files from Moscow; her internment file from the Isle of Man; two diaries written in the last year of her life; her published Yiddish articles from London; and dozens of letters to friends and family. By tracing Dora, items of Kafka's have been found. In 2001, Kafka's hairbrush was discovered in Israel.
In 2004, three original Kafka letters were found in private hands in California and copies made for the Kafka Critical Edition Archive at Wuppertal. Based largely on the results of the Kafka Project, Kafka's Last Love: The Mystery of Dora Diamant was published in the US and UK in 2003. Since then, the book has appeared in twelve additions, including translations into Spanish, French, German, Russian, Portuguese, Turkish, and more.
A second month-long Kafka Project research trip in Poland in the summer of 2008 developed collaborative research efforts with the University of Silesia and the National Library in Silesia, but yielded no further information on captured German documents in the eastern territories. In 2012, a five-week residency as an Eastern European Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington DC, resulted in confirmation that all remaining captured German documents during WWII were taken by the Red Army to Moscow. The Kafka Project would now have to focus on uncatalogued archives returned from Russia to East Germany in the 1960s. In 2013, such an archive, known as Section 9/XI, was uncovered in Berlin.
FUTURE PLANS AND GOALS:
Since a pandemic forced hiatus, the KAFKA PROJECT is reorganizing for a new approach to secure funding to uncover and catalogue archives containing German documents confiscated by the Gestapo in 1933.
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT:
Franz Kafka died mostly unpublished and unknown. Since his death, he has risen to become one of the most important literary figures of the 20th and 21st centuries. Everything Kafka wrote--his letters, diaries, notes, even his doodles--has been published in every major world language. New biographies, translations and/or new editions of his work appear almost every year. Kafka's missing writings would provide new information about the last year of his life, when he achieved an unprecedented level of peace and acceptance. As long as the fate of the missing material is unknown, Kafka's literary legacy remains unrealized. ******