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Daniel Josephus Jitta

(1854 - 1925)

Daniel Josephus Jitta was a Dutch expert in private international law. Jitta believed in an international world order and he considered the creation of something like the United States of Europe a possibility. He also believed in world peace, even after World War I. People had to understand that they were not only citizens of nations, but also members of the human race, citizens of the world. He was not naive, he used to say, because he would not live to see the day.

Born in Amsterdam, Josephus Jitta was the third generation of a family which originated in Bamberg in Germany. His father was a jeweler in the family business, which was the official purveyor of jewelry to the Dutch queens Sophie and Emma, the French princess Mathilde, and the Duke of Saxen Coburg-Gotha. Aged three Jitta moved to the Belgian capital of Brussels because of his mother's health problems. Being a very bright boy he finished the Royal Athenee when he was only 16 and went to university to read law. After graduation four years later he returned to the Netherlands, where his Belgian diploma turned out to be invalid. He went back to university in Leyden, graduated in 1880, and became a lawyer.

He began to publish on international private law. One of his earliest publications, La Méthode du Droit International Privé (1890), is still considered one of his most important and influential works. In 1894 he succeeded T.M.C. Asser as professor of commercial and private international law at Amsterdam University. Nine years later he succeeded Asser again, this time as member of the Netherlands Council of State.

Josephus Jitta also had a political career. From 1884 to 1894, he was a member of the Amsterdam city council for the liberals of Burgerpligt, like his father-in-law, banker and philanthropist A.C. Wertheim, and his uncle Simon Josephus Jitta (1818–1897), director of the Amsterdamsche Kanaalmaatschappij, which built the North Sea Channel.

As a student, Josephus Jitta was a passionate rower and later he was one of the driving forces behind gymnastics and public swimming pools in the Netherlands. He was also a firm believer in hygiene, probably influenced by his younger brother Nicolaas (1858–1940), an eye doctor who later became chairman of the League of Nation's International Office for Public Hygiene and belonged to the Hygiënisten (Hygienists), a group of medical doctors who used statistics to stimulate more care for public health. For hygienic reasons Josephus Jitta and his younger brother, unlike their parents and elder brother and sister, wished to be cremated after their death. Although no longer a religious Jew, Josephus Jitta was still affiliated with Jewish institutions. He was a member of the board of the Jewish orphanage and mental home in Amsterdam.


W. van Italie van Embden, in: Sprekende Portretten (1925) 136–46; W.M. Petelier, in: Biografisch Woordenboek van Nederland, 2 (1985), 269; P. Hofland, Leden van de raad. De Amsterdamse gemeenteraad 18141941 (1998); T. Toebosch, Van Keizersgracht naar Prinsengracht, geschiedenis van de Jitta's (working title, forthcoming).

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.