Annual Marshall Plan Lecture

As a political activist, journalist and writer, his father Leo Katz moved the family to Berlin in 1930. From there, they had to move to Paris after the Nazis’ rise to power and in 1940 continued their escape from Nazism, first to New York and then to Mexico. In Mexico City the Katzs finally found a safe haven. Friedrich Katz, who became fluent in his fifth language by the age of 14, lived among one of the most fascinating and active exile communities of the time. 

In 1949, Katz returned to Vienna, then a hot spot of the early Cold War, where he joined the Austrian Communist Party while writing his dissertation on the national economy of pre-Colombian Aztecs. Despite the high praise for the quality of his work, his peers made it clear that there was only one place they would write him a recommendation for: East Berlin. For over a decade, Katz worked at Humboldt University in East Berlin, establishing himself as a celebrated Mexicanist and discovering the second great topic of his oeuvre, the Mexican Revolution. Only after the repression of the Prague Spring in 1968 he left both Berlin and the Communist Party behind.

After a short stop-over in Mexico, where he witnessed the brutal suppression of the 1968 student movement, he received his first appointment in the USA at the University of Texas in Austin. In 1971, the former Communist Katz became part of the University of Chicago faculty. There he reached the height of his international fame as the most renowned scholar of the Mexican Revolution and made the University of Chicago a national hub for Latin Americanists.

This lecture will fathom the volte-faces and contradictions of one of the most fascinating academic biographies of the 20th century.

Berthold Molden is the 2012-2014 Austrian Marshall Plan Chair at UNO, where he teaches European and Global History of the 20th century. He has published on different aspects of Cold War intellectual and political history. From 2005 to 2010, he directed an international research project on everyday history and memory in Central European border towns. Among his publications is an edited volume of essays on the life and work of Friedrich Katz: Friedrich Katz. Essays on the Life and Work of a Transnational Historian, ed. by Martina Kaller, David Mayer and Berthold Molden (Wiener Vorlesungen - Forschungen, Volume 6), Vienna: Peter Lang 2012.