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Marking the Centenary of Franz Kafka’s Death

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Today, on the centenary of Franz Kafka’s death, we at the Leo Baeck Institute London take a moment to reflect on the legacy of one of the most enigmatic and influential writers of the 20th century.  

Kafka’s friend Felix Weltsch (cousin of the LBI London’s first director Robert Weltsch) wrote an essay for the first issue of the Leo Baeck Institute Year Book in 1956, titled ‘The Rise and Fall of the Jewish-German Symbiosis: The Case of Franz Kafka’. Weltsch’s essay explores Jewish assimilation into German culture in early 20th century Prague, of which Kafka and Weltsch were both prime examples. Weltsch highlights how Prague’s Jews, influenced by the Austrian government, embraced German culture, language, and literature. This assimilation was reflected in various cultural institutions, such as the German Theatre, which was heavily supported by Jews. Kafka’s literary journey, deeply rooted in German language and culture, also reflected a gradual awakening of his Jewish consciousness. The essay underscores Kafka’s position as a symbol of the intertwined Jewish-German cultural experience. 

The full article can be read here: https://academic.oup.com/leobaeck/article-abstract/1/1/255/1067988 

Photo credit: Digibaeck, "Portrait of Franz Kafka" https://links.cjh.org/primo/lbi/CJH_ALEPH000225340