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   Imre Forbáth Diaries, 1900-1943.

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Preferred Citation

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

COinS Metadata available (e.g., for Zotero).

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):Forbáth, Imre.
Title:Imre Forbáth Diaries, 1900-1943.
Physical description:2 linear ft. (4 document boxes)
Language(s): Material is in Hungarian and German.
Access: This collection is located on-site. This collection has no restrictions.  More information »



Diaries arranged in chronological order. Various inserts found in journals are placed in one folder and stored at the end of the 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.

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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.

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Using the Collection


Access Restrictions

This collection is located on-site.

This collection has no restrictions.

Restrictions on Use

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 Forbáth Diaries; Box and Volume; Bakhmeteff Archive, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Finding aid in repository and online

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About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries. Rare Book and Manuscript Library; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

Papers processed 2008 Maria Subert

Finding aid written 2008 Maria Subert

Finding aid prepared for publication 2/2010 Katia Shraga

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion February 18, 2010 Finding aid written in English.
    2010-02-18 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz

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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.


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
City Planning.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Civil engineering--Europe--20th century.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Civil engineering--Hungary--20th century.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Europe--History--20th century.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Hungary--History--20th century.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Hydraulic engineering--Europe--20th centruy.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
World War, 1914-1918.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
World War, 1939-1945.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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History / Biographical Note


Imre Forbáth (aka Emerich 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 Forbáth 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 Forbáth 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. Forbáth published articles in professional journals and elsewhere on a weekly basis. In 1906, he became a private professor at the Budapest Technical University. Imre Forbáth 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 Forbáth 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. Forbáth’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 Russian Revolution of 1917. 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.

Forbáth 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.

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