Between 1901-1906, Franz Kafka attended the Prague German University, the German section of Charles University. In 1882, Charles University, which was divided into Czech and German sections, was situated in Karolinum in the Old Town. The entrance to the German university was in Železná St., while the Czech University was entered from Ovocný Trh. In addition, various university departments were scattered around the area. Kafka used to attend lectures at Klementinum, the complex of buildings of the farmer Jesuit college, or at the Clam-Gallas Palace in what is now Husova Street.
© Foto: Archiv Klaus Wagenbach, Berlín
© Archiv Klaus Wagenbach, Berlin
The beginning of his university career was marked by a somewhat chaotic choice of the field of study: he first opted for chemistry, but transferred to the law school after the first two weeks. However, during his second semester of law studies he was attracted by philosophy and subsequently enrolled in German studies, while also attending art history lectures. Unfortunately, Kafka was so disenchanted by the lectures and seminars given by August Sauer, at that time the head of German studies in Prague, that he wanted to transfer to Munich. However, in the end he could not make up his mind and returned to the law school. There were undoubtedly practical considerations involved: in Bohemia under the Austro-Hungarian empire it was not easy for Jews to enter civil service due to latent anti-Semitism. They therefore tended to opt for fields of study that would enable them to work in liberal professions, particularly law and medicine. It could be that in Kafka’s case the crucial consideration was his determination to devote himself to writing and earn his living in a field that had nothing to do with literature.
Throughout his life Kafka recalled his law studies with distaste. He had been repelled by the cramming and having to regurgitate material that had been repeated by thousands before him. He makes no reference to the outstanding representatives of legal science whose lectures and seminars he attended, such as Horaz Krasnopolski (1842-1908), professor of Austrian civil law and brilliant lecturer, and the criminal law professor Hans Gross (1847-1915), author of a handbook for investigators, which deals with all aspects of crime. He was more attracted to the lectures given by the somewhat eccentric philosopher and psychologist Christian von Ehrenfels (1859-1932), which he occasionally attended outside the university. Kafka’s doctorate graduation ceremony from the Law School was officiated by Alfred Weber (1868-1958), brother of the sociologist Max Weber.