Hedwig Weiler


A high-school student from Vienna was Kafka’s summer-holiday girlfriend at Třešť (Triesch).
She hailed from Leopoldstadt, a bastion of Viennese social democracy which was nicknamed ‘Matzo Island’ on account of the large preponderance of Jews living there. As Kafka recalls, Hedwig too was an ardent social democrat. Kafka met her in 1907 at Třešť where she was spending her school vacation with relatives, while he was on holiday at the home of his uncle Siegfried Löwy, the ‘country doctor’, before starting his first job at the Assicurazioni Generali. Their relationship, which was treated rather frivolously by Kafka, was conducted in an atmosphere of summertime fun with carefree good-humour within a small town and its surrounding countryside. Hedwig’s effort to keep up the relationship came to grief on account of Kafka’s worries about his future. The plans they had for Hedwig to go to Prague to continue her studies and for Kafka to go to Vienna to study at the export academy came to nothing. Just over a dozen letters from Kafka remain as testimony to that playful summer romance; in the last of them, written in the spring of 1909, Kafka reverts to the polite form of address as also happens later in his correspondence with Milena Jesenská. Hedwig subsequently completed her secondary school studies in Brno in 1909 before going on to study Romance and German philology at the University of Vienna. She graduated in 1914 with a dissertation about an unfinished play by Franz Grillparzer. In 1917 she married a civil engineer, Leopold Herzek, who was born in the Moravian town of Rožnov. In later years she was politically active as a socialist-oriented Zionist.