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Smuts, Jan Christiaan°


SMUTS, JAN CHRISTIAAN ° (1870–1950), South African statesman, soldier, and philosopher. In the first half of the 20th century Smuts was a dominant figure in South African public life, both in war and peace; he occupied a place in world history for his part in the two great wars and in the creation of the League of Nations and of the United Nations. As a member of Britain's Imperial War Cabinet in World War i and a long-standing supporter of the Zionist cause (he was a personal friend of Chaim *Weizmann), he helped to formulate the Balfour *Declaration on the Jewish National Home as well as the Palestine Mandate. On many subsequent occasions he manifested his concern for the proper fulfillment of the mandate and used his influence with the British government to defend Jewish rights in Palestine. When the State of Israel was founded in 1948, the South African government, of which Smuts was then prime minister, immediately accorded de facto recognition. Shortly after, Smuts was defeated in a general election by the Nationalists. A settlement established with the help of the South African Zionist Federation, *Ramat Yohanan, was named after Smuts. Smuts was on friendly terms with prominent Jews and showed a deep understanding and love of the Bible. He strongly condemned the Nazi-inspired antisemitic agitation in South Africa in the 1930s. He criticized immigration restrictions on Jews under the Quota Act (1930), though in 1937 the Hertzog government, in which he was deputy prime minister, under political pressures imposed further immigration restrictions under the Aliens Act (see *South Africa). In 1945, Smuts was the author of the Preamble of the United Nations Charter.


S.G. Millin, General Smuts, 2 (1936), 103–22 and index; J.C. Smuts, Jan Christian Smuts (1952), index; C. Weizmann, Trial and Error (1949), index; L. Stein, Balfour Declaration (1961), 473–82 and index; G. Saron and L. Hotz, The Jews in South AfricaA History (1955), index. add. bibliography: odnb; P. Beukes, The Religious Smuts (1994); N. Rose, The Gentile Zionists (1973).

[Louis Hotz]

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