Robert Diamant (1922—2015)
Holocaust Survivor - Budapest, Hungary
Bachelor of Architecture, Miami University, Class of 1949
Robert Diamant was born on April 22, 1922 in Budapest, Hungary into a family that included a number of architects. Robert attended Jewish schools for his primary and secondary education but his university plans changed when the collaborationist Hungarian government passed anti-Jewish laws in 1938-39, drafting all Jewish men 21-48 into forced labor service.
Robert worked as a bricklayer until 1943, when he turned 21 and was sent to a series of labor camps. In January 1945, Robert became a prisoner at Mauthausen near Linz, Austria before being evacuated to Gunskirchen Lager, a satellite concentration camp in March 1945. He was liberated from Gunskirchen on May 4, 1945 by the 71st Infantry Division of the U.S. Army.
After liberation, Robert enrolled in the architecture program at Budapest University of Technology and Economics where he met his future architecture partner and fellow Miami alumnus, John Macsai. In 1947, Robert and John Macsai won first prize for their design of the Memorial to Jewish Martyrs in the Kozma Street Cemetery, the largest Jewish cemetery in Hungary. Although their design was never built, their work earned them national and later international recognition--eventually leading to the B'nai B'rith scholarships that brought them to Miami University in 1947.
Robert graduated from Miami University with a degree in architecture in 1949 and joined Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, where he later became a managing partner. Over the course of his distinguished career, Robert completed 100 building projects and won several prestigious architecture awards. In his testimony to the American Jewish Committee in 1975, Robert said that he was drawn to architecture because he wanted to create something out of the destruction and violence he witnessed during the war.
Robert Diamant’s story is one of ten extraordinary personal journeys of Miami alumni and faculty told in the exhibition, Bearing Witness: The Holocaust and Jewish Experience at Miami University, co-hosted by the Walter Havighurst Special Collections & University Archives and Hillel at Miami University.
Correction on 5/29/2020: An earlier version of this article claimed that Robert Diamant received a "B.A. in Architecture." It has been corrected to read "Bachelor of Architecture"