John Kafka

May 2, 1921 ~ October 13, 2020 (age 99)


John S. Kafka, Prominent D.C. Psychoanalyst, Dies at 99

Dr. John S. Kafka, a prominent psychoanalyst who practiced in Washington from 1957 until recent weeks, died from heart failure at Suburban Hospital early Tuesday afternoon. He was 99.

Kafka was born in Linz, Austria. He attended high school in Nancy and Clermont-Ferrand, France, and studied philology at the University of Bordeaux before fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe in 1940. He earned his B.A. in 1944 from Roosevelt University (then the Central YMCA College) in Chicago, served in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1946, pursued graduate study in psychology at the University of Chicago, and then earned his medical degree from Emory University in 1953.

After his medical internship at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago and a residency in psychiatry at Yale University, he came to the Washington area as a fellow and then a staff psychiatrist at the renowned Chestnut Lodge in Rockville. He began his private practice in 1957.

Among his many professional activities and honors, Kafka was a clinical professor of psychiatry at George Washington University’s School of Medicine, a supervising and training analyst for the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute, chair of the International Psychoanalytical Association’s Committee for Eastern Europe, a research consultant for the National Institute of Mental Health, and a board member of the Freud Archives. His book Multiple Realities in Clinical Practice was published by Yale University Press in 1989.

Kafka was an elegant skier, an inexhaustible jogger and gym-goer, a talented painter and draftsman, a trilingual punster, and an avid lifelong fan of challenging scientific literature, novels, fine food, cinema, and the performing arts. He met his wife, the NIH neuroscientist Marian S. Kafka, in an instinctual-behavior class at the University of Chicago. He wanted to hypnotize her, she declined, but they fell in love and earlier this month celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary.

He leaves behind Marian; their sons Egon, Paul, and Alexander; daughters-in-law Lauren Lantos Kafka and Patricia Gibbons; four grandchildren, Adrienne and Julian Kafka, and Gabriel and Charlotte Kafka-Gibbons; and many other cherished relatives and close friends.

A graveside service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday at Parklawn Cemetery in Rockville. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the U.S. Holocaust Museum and Doctors Without Borders. 

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