Julie Wohryzek


Kafka’s second fiancée. He met her when she was staying for six weeks at Stüdl’s boarding house in Želízy (Schelesen) at the beginning of 1919. Her father, a Jew from the country, had moved to Prague three months before she was born. When she was six, her parents were living in the Vinohrady district, where her father was sexton (shames) of the local synagogue. Julie attended a commercial school, and achieved the position of chief clerk. She met Kafka, eight years her senior, when she was 28. She had already been engaged once, but her fiancé was killed in the war. Kafka described her as a cheerful and carefree young woman, with whom he shared moments of shameful laughter. Otherwise his judgement of her was not too flattering. We know she liked to have a good time, going to films, plays and operettas, and that she had a racy vocabulary full of Yiddish expressions. She herself had Zionist sympathies and her younger sister Käthe (she had an older brother and sister) was active in the Zionist Blau Weiss association.
Julie’s friendship with Kafka only started to develop after their return to Prague from the boarding house. Kafka very soon pressed her to marry him. His father Hermann Kafka rejected the ill-matched union on social grounds. At the critical moment, towards the end of 1919 when Kafka had already found a flat in the Vršovice district of Prague and the date was fixed for the wedding, he cancelled his engagement. He sent a notarised letter to Julie’s married sister Käthe Nettel, penned at the same place (Želízy) and at the same time as the Letter to His Father. In it he described how he had come to know Julie and what had led him to break off the engagement. As one possible solution he suggested they continue their relationship without getting married. Thus Julie’s painful attachment to Kafka continued into 1920. However, Kafka’s relationship with Milena Jesenská helped bring it to an end.
In 1921 Julie Wohryzek married Josef Werner, a branch manager of a Prague bank. As discovered by Kafka researcher A. Northey, her life took a different course from that described in the existing literature. She lived to see World War II and was interned by the Nazis in 1943. She was then deported to Auschwitz, where she died in the autumn of 1944.