Scrapbookpages Blog

July 21, 2013

The three sisters of Franz Kafka perished in the Nazi gas chambers

The title of my blog post comes from a sentence in an article which you can read in full here.  Franz Kafka died in 1924.  He died a very painful death, but at least he was not gassed.

Franz Kafka Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Franz Kafka Photo Credit: Wikipedia

This quote is from the article cited above:

Born in Prague in 1883 into a German-speaking Jewish family, Kafka lived a life of quite exemplary tedium as an insurance clerk, rarely travelling (sic) beyond his home or that of his parents. [Primo] Levi saw similar constrictions in his own life as an assimilated Jew in bourgeois Turin. Moreover, Kafka’s three sisters had all perished in the Nazi gas chambers – victims of the grotesque bureaucracy foretold by their brother two decades earlier in The Trial. Kafka must have had a seer-like sensibility, Levi thought, to have looked so accurately into the future.

House where Franz Kafka lived in Prague

House where Franz Kafka lived in Prague

I have been unable to find any more information about exactly where the sisters of Franz Kafka “perished in the Nazi gas chambers.”  Jews from Prague were initially sent to the nearby Theresienstadt camp (now the town of Terezin) from where they were transferred to Auschwitz and placed in a “family camp.”  I wrote about the Czech Family Camp on my blog here.

I previously blogged about Primo Levi, who was a prisoner in the Auschwitz III camp, aka Monowitz.

Franz Kafka was born in this building in Prague Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Franz Kafka was born in this building in Prague Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Statue of Franz Kafka in Prague

Statue of Franz Kafka in Prague

This quote is from the Wikipedia page on Franz Kafka:

Kafka was born near the Old Town Square in Prague, then located in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His family were middle-class Ashkenazi Jews. His father, Hermann Kafka (1852–1931), was the fourth child of Jakob Kafka,[5][6] a shochet or ritual slaughterer in Osek, a Czech village with a large Jewish population located near Strakonice in southern Bohemia.[7] Hermann brought the Kafka family to Prague.

[…]

Hermann and Julie [Kafka] had six children, of whom Franz was he eldest.  Franz’s two brothers, Georg and Heinrich, died in infancy before Franz was seven; his three sisters were Gabriele (“Ellie”) (1889-1944), Valerie (“Valli”) (1892- 1943) and Ottilie (“Ottila”) 1892 – 1943.  They all died during the Holocaust of World War II. Valli was deported to the Lodz ghetto in Poland in 1942, but that is the last documentation of her.

Note that “Ellie” died in 1944, at the time that the Czech Family Camp Jews were sent to the gas chamber.   Valli was sent to the Lodz ghetto where many of the Jews remained until the last days of World War II.  However, Valli died in 1943, which means she was sent to the Chelmno death camp, according to the statistics on the JewishGen website.

House where Einstein played the violin for Franz Kafka

House where Einstein played the violin for Franz Kafka

In the photo above, the house on the right is called the House of the Stone Ram.  The House of the Stone Ram is where Albert Einstein played his violin for Franz Kafka when Einstein was a professor at Prague German University from 1911 to 1912. On the left, in the photo, is the House at the Stone Madonna, also called the Storch house; it has a painting of St. Wenceslas on horseback.

This quote about Franz Kafka is from Wikipedia:

Kafka grew up in Prague as a German-speaking Jew.[106] He was deeply fascinated by the Jews of Eastern Europe, who (sic) he thought possessed an intensity of spiritual life that was absent from Jews in the West. His diary is full of references to Yiddish writers.[107] Yet he was at times alienated from Judaism and Jewish life: “What have I in common with Jews? I have hardly anything in common with myself and should stand very quietly in a corner, content that I can breathe”.[108] In his adolescent years, Kafka had declared himself an atheist.[109]

Hawes suggests that Kafka, though very aware of his own Jewishness, did not incorporate it into his work, which, according to Hawes, lacks Jewish characters, scenes or themes.[110][111][112] In the opinion of literary critic Harold Bloom, although Kafka was uneasy with his Jewish heritage, he was the quintessential Jewish writer.[113]

Franz Kafka attended the Old-New Synagogue in Prague

Franz Kafka attended the Old-New Synagogue in Prague

The photo above shows the Old-New synagogue which Franz Kafka attended when he lived in Prague; His bar mitzvah was held in the Old-New Synagogue.

On the west wall of the main hall in the Synagogue, there is a glass case shaped like the two stone tablets on which Moses chiseled the ten commandants. The case is filled with tiny light bulbs which light up on the anniversary of someone’s death if the relatives have paid for this feature. One of the lights is for Franz Kafka.

This synagogue got its strange name, Altneuschul, which is German for old-new-school because at the time that it was completed in 1275, it was the Neuschul or New Synagogue, but by the 16th century when other new synagogues were built in Prague, it became the Altneuschul or Old-New Synagogue.

Tourists flock to this street in Prague

Tourists flock to Hrbitova street in Prague

On the right in the photo above, tourists are shown crowding around the street vendors’ stalls on Hrbitova Street, looking for souvenirs of their visit. This picture is the view looking east toward the intersection of Maiselova and Hrbitova, taken from the entrance to the Klausen Synagogue which is at the other end of this street, behind the camera. On the left side of the picture, you see tourists looking at the windows of the souvenir shops. In the the center of the photo, a tour group is shown, listening as their guide tells them about the Old Town Hall, the pink building in front of them.

7 Comments

  1. Visiting Prague one cannot but visit the cemetery in ®i¾kov and Kafka’s grave. We stand at a modest tombstone decorated by a high cubist polyhedron (designed by the architect Leopold Ehrmann who also renovated the synagogue at Smichov). In front Franz’s name and below the names of his parents can be seen: his father Hermann’s, and his mother Julia’s. At the very bottom of the granite stone, on a separate marble plaque an inscription reads: “Na pamìt’ sester vyznamneho pra¾ského, ¾idovského spisovatele Franza Kafki zahynulych za nacisticke okupace v létech 1942-1943” (“To the memory of the sisters of the renowned Prague Jewish writer Franz Kafka murdered during the Nazi occupation in 1942-1943”). The names of the three sisters and their birth dates follow: Gabriela Hermannova, Valeria Pollakova and Ottilia Davidova. And it is here that this article really begins – because I have decided to explain and analyze in more detail this laconic and dramatic inscription of the small marble slab.

    Comment by gold price — July 27, 2013 @ 3:41 pm

  2. Were Franz Kafka’s sisters ever found? Their bodies? Or did they just vanish into thin air. Keep embarrassing yourself.

    Comment by NeverAGAIN! — July 22, 2013 @ 7:17 am

    • I got the information that Kafka’s sisters died in the Holocaust from Wikipedia. Only the year of their deaths was given, not the name of the camp where they were killed. From that, I deduced that his sisters were sent to Chelmno. I wrote about the Chelmno camp on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Poland/Chelmno/Tour01.html

      This quote is from my website:
      Begin Quote
      The Chelmno Schlosslager had neither prisoner barracks nor factories; its sole purpose was to murder Jews and Roma who were not capable of working at forced labor for the Nazis. In 1939, there were around 385,000 Jews living in the Warthegau; those who could work were sent to the Lodz ghetto where they labored in textile factories which made uniforms for the German army.

      On January 16, 1942, deportations from the Lodz ghetto began; records from the ghetto show that 54,990 people were deported before the final liquidation of the ghetto in August 1944. The Jewish leader of the Lodz ghetto, Chaim Rumkowski, compiled the lists of people to be deported, although he had no knowledge that they were being sent to their deaths at Chelmno.

      The gassing of the Jews at Chelmno was carried out in two separate phases. In the first phase, between December 7, 1941 and April 1943, Jews from the surrounding area and the Lodz ghetto were brought to Chelmno and killed on the day after their arrival. Although the Nazis destroyed all records of the Chelmno camp, it is alleged that around 15,000 Jews and 5,000 Roma, who were deported from Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Czechoslovakia and Luxembourg, were brought to Chelmno to be killed in this remote spot.
      End Quote

      Comment by furtherglory — July 22, 2013 @ 8:53 am

    • Neveragain wrote: “Were Franz Kafka’s sisters ever found? Their bodies? Or did they just vanish into thin air. Keep embarrassing yourself.”

      We’ve been told for décades that Anne Frank and her sister had died in a gas chamber at Auschwitz. Now we know they died from typhus in Belsen. Did their bodies just vanish into thin air? No, they lie in one of Belsen mass graves.

      Comment by hermie — July 23, 2013 @ 3:24 pm

    • sure they must have found one of them in the united kingdom another in spain & one more in italy or maybe it was rather spain, the united kingdom & italy… that way everyone will agree with themselves

      Comment by drakonia insurrectus — July 18, 2017 @ 1:08 pm

  3. Prague was until 1850 a majority German town and the buildings proudly shown off in the centre were largely until 1945 owned by Germans. As for the German univeristy of Prague attended by Kafka it was closed in 1945 after a history of several hundred years. Its last rector Professor Albrecht was hanged by the mob in May 1945 and one of its distinguished Professors Josef Pfitzner endured judicial slow strangulation by the Reds in front of 50, 000 who gathered for the show.

    Comment by peter — July 21, 2013 @ 3:39 pm

    • You deserve a medal for stating facts, carry on with your good work

      Comment by Herbert Stolpmann — July 21, 2013 @ 4:40 pm


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