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Dutch central bank apologizes for role in slave trade

July 1, 2022

The central bank in the Netherlands admitted that early directors profited from plantations in the Caribbean and South America and advocated against the Dutch abolition of slavery.

 A white pigeon passes as people queue to pay their respect at the National Slavery Monument
The DNB's apology comes after several other Dutch institutions admitted to their role in the trans-Atlantic slave tradeImage: Peter Dejong/AP/picture alliance

The Dutch central bank (DNB) apologized on Friday for the institution's involvement in the 19th-century slave trade. The apology came at a ceremony marking the Dutch abolishment of slavery.

"On behalf of DNB, I apologize today to all people who by the personal choices of my predecessors were reduced to the color of their skin," Klaas Knot, the central bank governor, said in a speech at the event. 

DNB's apology came after an investigation published in February revealed early private investors of the bank either owned or financed plantations in overseas colonies. Others traded in staple crops produced on plantations in the Caribbean and South America — such as sugar, coffee, cotton and tobacco.

The investigation also revealed that bank directors advocated against the abolishment of slavery in the Netherlands. 

The bank acknowledged that it had participated in slavery from 1814 to 1863. In addition, DNB admitted to paying compensation to half of its directors as well as plantation owners when slavery was finally abolished in the country.

Knot announced at the event a series of measures to increase diversity and inclusion in its own ranks. DNB also promised to commit €10 million ($10.4 million) in the next 10 years to projects aimed at mitigating "contemporary negative effects of 19th-century slavery.''

Longstanding Dutch institutions have been on a campaign to grapple with its connection to slaveryand colonization in different parts of the world. Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema apologized last year for the Dutch capital's role in the slave trade. In April, Dutch bank ABN Amro also admitted to the involvement of its predecessors in plantation slavery. 

The Dutch West India Company traded some 600,000 slaves, according to Dutch state data. The Netherlands was involved in slavery from the 17th century until it was abolished in 1863. 

asw/sms (Reuters, AP, DPA)