Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Imre Forbath diaries, 1900-1943

Summary Information


This collection comprises twenty one journals of Imre Forbath (ака Emerich Forbath), one of the greatest engineers in Europe. These diaries span the period from 1900 to 1943.

At a Glance

Call No.: BA#0527
Bib ID 7269482 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Forbath, Imre ; Forbath, Emeric
Title Imre Forbath diaries, 1900-1943
Physical Description 4 linear feet (4 linear feet 2 document boxes)
Language(s) English , Hungarian , German .

This collection is located on-site.

This collection has no restrictions.



Diaries arranged in chronological order. Various inserts found in journals are placed in folder and stored at the end of collection in Box 4. Description of the each journal includes a summary of the content and alphabetical list of people, writings, public presentation, and works mentioned in the journal.


Scope and Content

The collection contains twenty one journals of Imre Forbath (aka Emerich Forbath), Hungarian engineer. The handwritten journals span the period from 1900 to 1943 and cover many important historical events and provide a valuable record on twentieth-century Hungarian and European history, history of technology, culture, and political life.

There is also two photographs, one letter, one business card, and one book-plate found as inserts in the diaries and placed in one folder.

The Budapest Archive has some documents from György Forbáth, engineer, who escaped from Russian captivity. Most likely, these are also a part of Imre Forbáth's legacy.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection is located on-site.

This collection has no restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Curator of the Bakhmeteff Archive. The RBML approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Imre Forbath Diaries; Box and Volume; Bakhmeteff Archive, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Papers processed Maria Subert 2008.

Finding aid written Maria Subert 2008.

Finding aid prepared for publication Katia Shrago 2/2010.

Revision Description

2010-02-18 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Diaries Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
City planning Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Civil engineering -- Europe -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Civil engineering -- Hungary -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Hydraulic engineering -- Europe -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
World War, 1914-1918 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
World War, 1939-1945 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Imre Forbath was born in 1875 and died in 1944. One of the greatest engineers in Europe, he lived during the turbulent final decades of the Habsburg Monarchy, the First World War, the troubled Twenties and Thirties, and the Second World War. He was an eyewitness to many of the historic events of these times.

The young Hungarian-Jewish engineer Forbath started his career as a civil engineer in Frankfurt and Berlin after attending universities in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and in Germany. He later worked in cities all over Europe in this period of rapid urban growth. He became known as one of the greatest engineers in Europe.

Imre Forbath took part in the canalization of the major European rivers and in the designing of ports. He also worked on such urban infrastructure projects as water supply, sewage systems, gas works, and power plants. The nitrogen factory he directed for seventeen years, gaining for it an international reputation, still exists in Romania.

His peers regarded him as the best writer on city planning of his time. Forbath published articles in professional journals and elsewhere on a weekly basis. In 1906, he became a private professor at the Budapest Technical University. Imre Forbath was regarded as one of the leading figures in Budapest's engineering and political worlds.

It was his fate to be present during many important historical events. Imre Forbath took part in the First World War as an engineer with the Austro-Hungarian forces. His division was sent to Przemysl, which was besieged by the Russians. In his journal, he writes movingly about conditions in the surrounded fortress. When all their food ran out, the Austro-Hungarian troops had to surrender. This was one of the crucial moments of the war for Austria-Hungary. Forbath's account of this event is the only detailed one that has survived.

After the surrender of the fortress, he became a prisoner of war in Russia with his fellow soldiers and was taken to Siberia, to the cities of Tobolsk and Petropavlovsk, from which he managed to escape. He appeared in Moscow eight months after the Soviet revolution. He returned to Hungary when a Soviet republic was established there, too, during 1919.

His house and property were nationalized, but he was looked upon with respect by the revolutionaries as one of Budapest's leading engineers. He held a position under the regime but resigned before it collapsed. The treaty of Trianon formally ended the First World War for Hungary in 1920, completely redrawing the country's borders.

Forbath kept his intellectual outlook and optimism for a better future alive throughout this disturbed period. His historical writings, unlike his technical ones, remained unknown and unpublished during his lifetime. Other than a few lines in biographical dictionary articles, nothing was written about his life in Hungary or elsewhere in Europe. Even the fact of his tragic death in the Holocaust in 1944 was not known. The Hungarian biographical lexicon and the Report of the Hungarian Hydraulic Society give his year of death as around 1952.