Her life provides a lens through which we can view the cultural and political history of twentieth-century Europe

Kathi Diaman the amazing woman who captured Kafka’s heart and kept his literary flame alive for decades. It was Dora Diamant, an independent spirit who fled her Polish Hasidic family to pursue her Zionist dreams, who persuaded Kafka to leave his parents and live with her in Berlin the year before he died. Although many credit (or blame) her for burning many of his papers, as he had requested, she also held onto many others-papers that the Gestapo confiscated and that have yet to be recovered.

Exactly Dora Diamant first told this venerable tale of Franz Kafka and the Doll, spanning over half a century and ending with a timeless quote “Everything you love will probably be lost, but in the end, love will return in another way.”

Despite the enthusiastic efforts of several Kafka experts and researchers, concrete proof — for example copies of the “doll” letters themselves — has never been found. Have no witnesses to the doll story ever materialized? One obvious hypothesis is that Dora Diamant simply made up the incident. However, it seems unlikely that she would just have invented this encounter in the park. The details about the incident in the doll story itself sound authentic. Though Dora had an exalted, mystical streak, she had too high an opinion of Kafka to engage in any such fabrication.

There are two wise lessons in this story: Grief and loss are ubiquitous even for a young child. And the way toward healing is to look for how love comes back in another form. It could also be that the story of Kafka’s kindness and compassion provide, for the wider global audience, the same service that the letters themselves do for the little girl in the park — consolation through storytelling, regardless of accuracy.

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